Documenting the Edges of the USSR

Photographer Laure Chichmanov captures a rare look at rural communities in Siberia, Chechnya, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan.


Laure Chichmanov photographs the edges of the USSR with a cool sense of familiarity. Born in Bulgaria, Chichmanov grew up in Russia. As an assistant film director, she has travelled extensively in the former Soviet Union to work on film sets. In her off-time, she uses her analog camera to investigate the rural communities and small cities of Siberia, Chechnya, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan.

These countries all have one thing in common: They were each part of the Soviet Union before it collapsed in 1991. As Chichmanov puts it, a “Russian impression” remains. Many people still speak Russian, and the lingering Soviet influence creates a similarity between otherwise very different countries.

“The thing I like in these places, is that there are very few people visiting, so the curiosity goes both ways,” Chichmanov told us. “People are very welcoming and less afraid of the camera.”

Chichmanov’s 35mm photos offer a look at real life in the remote edges of the former USSR, from horseback riders and motorcyclists in a Kazakh village to a “No swimming” sign on a frozen Siberian lake. See our favorites below, and find more on her portfolio, built using Format.

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