Dusha, Russian Soul, (2005 -2009)

Dusha, the Russian word for soul, has the same root as the verb to breath: the soul therefore becomes a long breath, a desperate clinging to life in moments of oppression. But Dusha is also a synonym for man. Dusha is the title of this endless journey through Russia.

Winston Churchill defined Russia as “a riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma”. Others have described Russians simply as “sad Neapolitans.” A local proverb says that Russians resemble Europeans in their features, but Asians in their frame of mind. In conclusion, the character of the Russian people remains a mystery to all but those who are born there.

Dusha, I believe, is the closest that anyone has come to bridging this divide. For those who know little about the country, don’t understand it or even fear it, this essay offers a glimpse into the intimate and everyday life of Russians. Leaving the big cities behind, focusing instead on the Russian provinces, I made careful observations and avoided moral judgment, treating my subject with respect and empathy. I discovered tenderness, joy and an attractiveness in its utter poverty and simplicity, showing a deep understanding for the emotions of its men and women.

The huge grey anonymous buildings are transformed into the metaphysical images of De Chirico; the reputedly dangerous and nostalgic Soviets, racist and nationalistic, are perceived as orphans of a past in which they blindly believe, and the kitsch tapestries that hang on cheap hotel walls become Art. Then, all at once, this part of Russia and its people become breathtakingly beautiful and as easily identifiable as our next own door neighbors.

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