e-mail Andreas Horvath

enter exhibition


The sky is high

and the Tsar is far
Ironically, this old Siberian saying has not lost any of its relevance. Maybe it is most true today, considering Moscow's difficulties in keeping the great empire from falling apart. The Tsar has always been severely concerned about the decreasing influence he had on his Eastern-most people. Then and now...

Six time-zones seperate Moscow from Jakutsk, the capital of Russia's biggest Republic Jacutia. When people west of the Ural go to bed, a new day will already have begun for the inhabitants of Jacutia.

The golden domes of the Kremlin and the palaces of St. Petersburg nowadays attract western film-crews and weekend-tourists. The visitors hardly realize that these impressive buildings have all been financed by the treasures of the vast hinterland. And just like Western movie facades these buildings say little about the reality they hide.

"Sibir" - The Sleeping Land:


From the seventeenth century onward Siberia has been a playground for colonial expansion. Once the rumor had spread that unfathomable quantities of sable could be found romping about in "Sibir"(as the natives called it), European adventurers set out in quest for the fur. The indigenous people were forced to "help" and pay taxes. Failure to do so would result in either torture or death.

In the age of industrialization mineral resources became the focal point of interest in Siberia. An old tale explains how Jacutia came to be the richest country in the world: God tried to spread the treasures equally among the different countries of the earth. From a big sack he took just a handful for each country and scattered it across the land. When he reached Jacutia it became so cold that he dropped the whole sack and took off.

Oh yes, it can get cold in Jacutia - and lonely, which is why the country hosted most of Russia's GULAGs. The region of Kolyma in the north is regarded as the quintessential site for a GULAG. It contains the coldest place on earth with a recorded temperature of -60 degrees Celsius. During the summer it can reach a high of +40 degrees Celsius. Thus Jacutia is the only country in the world which has an annual temperature difference of 100 degrees Celsius.

Siberia was a jail without bars - as they used to say. Whoever managed to escape the GULAG was not likely to make it through the wilderness. Therefore deporting people beyond the Urals was the cheapest way to get rid of criminals and enemies.

This is all part of the most recent history. It is echoed in people's faces, their customs and everyday life. The photos, I hope, tell not only about the hardships they face, but also of the happiness people experience in this remote region. One finds unbelievable poverty in many places. At the same time their joy and unity with nature during the short, but intensive summer months is something our culture can learn a lot from.


Twilight in The Sleeping Land:

Even though sovereign since 1991, the majority of Jacutia's wealth is still diverted to Moscow. The transactions however, are more subtle and are not used to fund the golden domes.

The blessings of a free market economy have brought a lot of foreign investors to Jacutia. Many of them seek a quick fortune and then leave, oftentimes leaving behind a damaged environment. There are already plans for "secure zones" - a euphemism for "reservations" - to protect the indigenous tribes.

For centuries time and space seemed to have endless dimensions in Siberia. But now, on the brink of the millennium, they suddenly have become finite as the destruction of Siberian forests can be viewed from space. Even the tracks of a single truck leave a permanent trace in the vulnerable perma frost ground, a trace which is also visible from above.

Only the near future will tell if Jacutia can manage the transition from a Soviet Republic to a truly sovereign state, and more importantly under what type of conditions.


enter exhibition