© Brian Driscoll
The Komi Land is a series of photographs that reflect the daily lives of forgotten Germans who were exiled to the Komi Republic, Russia during and after WWII.
The region is situated west of the Ural Mountains in the far north of the Russian European plain. I was drawn to this culturally unique region because of its autonomous nature and an interest of the indigenous people that reside there, in particular Russian Germans who make up a small amount of the population.
Since 1942, the Komi Republic was occupied by the Trudarmeytsy Germans from the eastern regions of the USSR. Germans were exposed not only to national discrimination, but they were also denied many civil rights; their lives constantly came up against various kinds of restrictions and prohibitions. Special settlers did not have passports, which virtually made them outcasts in a society, many people including women and children served time as prisoners in labor camps and were forced to work in coal mines, build railway lines and housing. Thousands of people were displaced and quite a few were executed.
Germans who wished to remain in the Komi Republic, decided to consolidate. They began to band together in places where they could preserve their national identity, culture and language. Many of theses families live in the towns of Syktyvkar, Ezhva, Maksakovka, Sedkyrkesch, Krasny, Zaton and the industrial and woodworking areas. Russian Germans struggle to maintain their identity and hold on to traditional values, as younger generations of Russian and German descent integrate.
My aim is to portray and disclose the relationship of Russian Germans and the land in which they reside and to show the layers of tradition, identity and history to the outside world of people whom may never have had or desired to have an opportunity to get to know this community in Northern Russia. These photographs begins to scratch the surface and create a pathway for a larger story waiting to be told.
Brian Driscoll is a documentary photographer, a native New Yorker, currently based in New York City.
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