Anton Polyakov & Anna Galatonova
In the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union was about to collapse and Moldova proclaimed its independence, one of the regions of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic decided to go another way. Self-proclaimed republic of Transnistria is an approximately 200-km-long sliver of territory along the left bank of the Dniester river running between Moldova and Ukraine. For over 27 years the republic has had an indefinite status, none of the countries recognizes the transnistrian independence except Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh which are also unrecognized republics. During this time, the whole new generation, which identifies itself as “Transnistrians,” was raised.
The protagonists of story are young people who live in the rural north of Transnistria. It seems at first that they have an idyllic life in the midst of rocks and hills covered in thick woods. They have a close relation to earth, nature, and farm animals, they are used to hard labor and love their native land. However, except the fact that their state is unrecognized, there is one more problem — the village is dying out. There are very few paid jobs, entertainment, or growth opportunities in their villages. That’s why at some point young people have to choose: stay in the village or leave their home to look for a better life.
The title for story — Mahala — was borrowed from the local dialect of Moldavian. This word names an isolated part of the settlement populated by people who are generally friendly towards each other and feel that together they form a kind of a community. Our protagonists are also living their own secluded lives, are separated from the rest of the world and form a community that in the general sense is “mahala”: they have known each other their whole life, help each other with farming, celebrate holidays and grow up together.
Photographers Anton Polyakov & Anna Galatonova (both born in 1990) are among the first generation who identify themselves as “Transnistrians”. Their date of birth coincides with the date of establishment of the Republic of Transnistria, a small country between Moldova and Ukraine, that isn’t recognized anywhere. They both graduated from the Transnistrian State University, Anton – studied Geography, Anna – journalism. Currently photographers are interested in the topic of historical and cultural memory in the region in which they reside, as well as younger generation of people who were born in the unrecognized republics after the collapse of the Soviet Union: the question of their personal identification, the influence of the uncertain status of the country and what they face in their daily lives.