The enigma remains unanswered. Why so much obstinacy from the time of Catherina the Great until the present?For three centuries the “white” and then “red” autocracy” has continued it’s battle in the territory of the “Northern Caucasus”. Today’s Russia has waged two wars in Chechnya which have initiated terrorism. From the eighteenth century to the present, the conflicts in the Caucasus have been cited “as an example for the entire nation.” Caucasian martyr- dom is a deterrent, an example of what people had to pay to resist orders that came from above. Lev Tolstoy perfectly de- scribed in his last novel “Hadji Murat”, the reason of the Russian fighting in the Caucasus: “eradicate the “red thistle” [symbol of the Caucasian fighter] to destroy the idea of freedom in each Russian soul.”
Today northern Caucasus is a concentration of stereotypes in the western imagination. A lack of human right, kamikaze women, suicide bombers, bloodthirsty leaders, separatist movements, fundamentalist Islam, ethnic conflict and the permanent pride of the mountain people, as described by Ermolov, Pushkin, Tolstoy, Lermontov.
Northern Caucasus is all this and more. The inhabitants of the northern Caucasus are Russian citizens, though of different eth- nicity, religion and social customs. Yet this land just south of Russia, for the vast majority of citizens of Russian Federation is a foreign and dangerous land, lost, a world away.
Politkovskaya, Beslan, Estemirova, Dubrovka, Grozny. When the Northern Caucasus emerge from the shadow of history into breaking news, it always does so with tragedy.
“If you shoot in the Caucasus, the echo will be heard for centuries” say old proverb of the area to remind the difficulty of solv- ing disputes in this area which is proud and rebellious.
I started traveling in the Caucasus at the beginning of 2008. I arrived driven by the curiosity to discover many of those stereo- types. I set out on long term trips, no fixer, a kind of slow journalism; a way to discover a remarkable and surprising everyday life full of contradictions. How do people live in a place where there are explosions, bombing, kidnapping and abductions? Where there is a “good Islam” and a “bad Islam”? Where, at the same time everything seems “still”. Youth, women, elderly who are condemned to social, institutional and economic immobility. Families who live in the limbo of their tradition in an inter- minable wait for democracy, civil rights and modernity. These are all questions I strived to find an answer to.
This project explores this extraordinary and unknown daily life. The breaking news and the geopolitical interest in these regions remains, however my focus is rather to build a new interpretation of this culture of people through the details of the everyday life. Record the aftermath of two centuries of cruel disputes and fights.
Born in 1974, Davide Monteleone spent his first 18 years living in various cities in Italy, as his parents moved frequently for work. He gave up his study of engineering to move first to the US, and then to the UK, where he discovered an interest in photography and journalism. Since 2001 Monteleone moved to Moscow, where he lived permanently until 2003, working as correspondent for the photo agency Contrasto. This decision determined his ensuing career.
Since 2003, Monteleone has lived between Italy and Russia, pursuing long-term personal projects. He published his first book Dusha, Russian Soul in 2007, followed by La Linea Inesistente, in 2009, and Red Thistle in 2012. His projects have received numerous accolades, including the World Press Photo prizes in 2007, 2009, 2011 and numerous grants. In recent years, alongside the editorial work, he has started exhibiting and teaching. In 2011 Davide has joined VII Photo.