Guided tour Spasibo with Davide Monteleone - September 23rd, 18:00, following book signing "The April Theses".
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, separatist movements in Chechnya started a fierce fight that would lead to the country’s independence from Russia. In 1999, in a climate of terror and continuous attacks, the Russian army launched an offensive, described by then president Vladimir Putin as “counter-terrorist”, which flattened Grozny, the largest city in Chechnya. In an area in collapse, where the economy, industries and infrastructure were already devastated following years of fighting, the military invasion caused still further destruction and started a war that would last ten more years. The result of the Second Chechen War was the creation of the Republic of Chechnya, to all effects and purposes a dictatorship run first by Akhmad Kadyrov and then his son Ramzan, a leader installed by Putin and loyal to the Kremlin. Grozny, now the capital, is a «ghost city», writes Moscow-based journalist Masha Gessen, «the ghosts of those who died in the war or disappeared – every family has a brother or father who left home and never returned.»
These are the opening words of Gessen’s contribution to Spasibo, a monograph by Davide Monteleone who travelled to Russia on several occasions from 2001 and to Chechya in 2013. Today the Chechens are a people whose identity is crumbling away in a process of extinction marked by a kind of violence that stops being physical and becomes psychological. The armed conflict is over, the separatist groups, accused of terrorism, are pursued by the law, and the Chechen people can enjoy a certain freedom from Russia, profess their Islamic faith and speak the language that once was banned. Yet peace is only apparent. Lives swing between a «comfortable stagnation», as Davide Monteleone says, in which «everything is controlled by the authorities», and the desire to reappropriate a present that needs to be recreated. The repressive propaganda regime forces the Chechens to choose between conformity and martyrdom. The new generations are watching the obliteration of a collective memory that cuts off the possibility of political, social and cultural alternatives.
In Spasibo, Davide Monteleone tells through his photographs of a reality divided between metaphor and ambiguity, the ghosts of the past and the compromises of the present, the new Chechen identity and the silent disappearance of recent times. The title itself underlines this ambiguity. Spasibo means “thank you” in Russian and could mean the end of the armed conflict after decades of bloodshed, or it could recall how the ceasefire depends on a compromise with the authorities, who offer the Chechen people survival by repressing them.
«Thanks, Ramzan, thanks Russia. Spasibo.»
Palazzo Martuzzi, Sala Allende
Corso Vendemini, 18