Mikhail Lebedev | Snow Desert

Mikhail Lebedev believes Russia is the best country for documentarists, offering a multitude of problems, unique people and bizarre modes of existence. In order to create “Snow Desert” in Russia’s Kola Peninsula, he challenged himself to drive more than 2,000 kilometers through an unknown and desolate area.

Located in the extreme northwest of Russia, The Kola Peninsula is the most densely populated region in the arctic circle. The area went through a period of rapid urbanization in the second half of the 20th century, and Lebedev was particularly interested in this process and its influence on local societies.

In a way typical to the USSR’s planned economy, the largest cities in this naturally rich and strategic region were built as “monotowns”: cities or towns whose economy is dominated by a single industry or company. In their search for new opportunities, immigrants travelled there from different regions of the country to build roads, cities and factories. They brought with them their languages, traditions and cultures, forming a supranational identity.

Russia’s transition to a market economy in the early 1990s has created a series of acute problems for monotowns. Natural resources are being depleted, production is declining and anxiety and fear for children’s futures permeate the locals’ souls. The growing depopulation of the cities strengthens these feelings, as nature is gradually winning back its territory.


In Collaboration with the Russian House in Tel Aviv

Mikhail Lebedev

Ido Cohen

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