No Man’s Land – Valeri Nistratov

This is a documentary project and research of daily life of people, living on the lands of the higher Amur basin (or Damur,Black Dragon…) that is situated in the Far East of Russia and the Northern part of China.

For the first time, Russians came to the Amur in 1650 during the colonial march and built Albazino Fortress on a highshore. Later, taking part in persistent brutal clashes for the land with local aboriginals and Manchurians from China, finally, ran away, burned their fortress and didn’t come there for more than 150 years.

In the middle of the 19th century Russians returned there again and the Russian Tsar’s government started active settlement of the far East, in particularly, the higher Amur basin, by arrested people, revolutioners and also peasants of the Central Russia, providing them with large areas of land and enlarging the gigantic territory of the empire.

Using weakness and vulnerability of China at that time, the gigantic area of land was occupied by Russia.

During the Soviet epoch, a lot of migrants came to that lands for building large and ambitious building projects (for example, BAM railway) and also for the same as earlier: settling and holding lands rich of gold, mineral resources, timber and other raw materials.

From the “settled” population of the “large Russia” it was built a reliable buffer of the Soviet empire in front of the growing strength of the Asian neighbour.

But now, “on the native Russian territories”, as they call now Priamuriye, nearly, nobody lives.

In the high Amur basin (its Russian part) along 1000 km length direct in front of China there are only 10-12 living villages.

The population of only one province of China, having the boundary with these lands, is 150 millions.

The local aboriginals (evenks, damurs…) disappeared from the map, moving along the boundless areas of the Eastern Siberia.

The Russian population is decreased quickly because of the negative demographic situation and, under the information of the UN, in 50 years, its population would consist of not more than 100 million, living on the largest territory of the world.

Priamuriye cities, where a lot of plants were built during the Soviet power, are empty.

People leave them because there is no job there and move to the regions with oil, diamonds and other raw materials–the main components of the modern Russian economy growth…

From my point of view, all this, together with the growing xenophoby of the Russian society, makes the situation of the higher Amur very difficult, dramatic and unpredictable….

Valeri Nistratov

Valeri Nistratov was born in Moscow in 1973.
He became interested in photography during his childhood.
Valeri Nistratov began his photographer’s career in 1990 at the age of 17.
From 1991 to 1993 he worked as a news photographer covering the dramatic events of the fall of USSR for international media.
In early 1994 he reconsidered his photography career and chose the path of art-documentary photography.
When working on his personal projects, Valeri Nistratov travels much between Russia and Asia.
The space and borders between Russia and Asia is his the main photographic research.
The main themes of Valeri Nistratov’s photographic research is: local identity, mentality and consciousness of post-soviet and modern russian people, social environment, overpopulation and man-altered landscape.
Valeri’s photographs have been exhibited in Russia, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland,
USA, Mexico, South Africa, Japan, China and other countries.
Valeri Nistratov has been teaching documentary photography course
in the Rodchenko School of Photography and Multimedia.
His works is represented in public and private collections in Russia and abroad.

Location :  Lim Art Gallery from Nov 1st till the 15th

XYZ Gallery