New East Digital Archive

Country life: the women at the heart of the Russian village

12 January 2015

Documentary photographer Olya Ivanova spends her time capturing the unseen Russia of small, remote villages. In a lauded project Kich Gorodok, Ivanova presented her portraits of the inhabitants of an isolated hamlet alongside the village photo archive, which dated back to the first half of the 20th century. The result was a moving study of life as it changes and stays the same. Increasingly, Ivanova has come to focus on the women of the villages, who often form the fulcrum of rural life. Women are at the centre of her story Village Day, shot in the north of Russia, and they play a significant role in her most recent series, taken in Bologoe, a small town in the Tver Region exactly half way between Moscow and St Petersburg.

The women of Bologoe, shown here, are young and old, captured in their best dresses or posing in jeans on a motorbike. They are mothers of families, choir girls and brides. If this is a snapshot of a village with its complex social life, it’s also in some way a representation of all the different stories of women across Russia, a country still largely in thrall to traditional gender roles.