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Artist portrait. Focus: The fifth wave of Russian immigration
Polina Shubkina (Russia/Romania)
Oct 3 / 6 PM
Talks in english
First emigration wave, second emigration wave, third emigration wave, - these definitions are being used over and over in Russian journalism and contemporary literature. Most likely, this way of defining various periods of emigration from the Russian Empire, USSR, and Russian Federation will officially be approved by historians. However, identifying waves of Russian emigration by period alone is rather inaccurate, because of this we assume their identity in all other respects. In fact, emigration from Russia that took place between 1917 - 1922 and emigration from the Soviet Union in the second half of the twentieth century have little in common. The difference lays in its cultural and historical sense.
The first wave of emigration made the most remarkable impact on the world’s cultural history, for two reasons. First, the majority of the people who fled Russia were representatives of its intellectual elite, such as: writers Vladimir Nabokov, Ivan Bunin, singer Feodor Chaliapin, composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, artists Marc Chagall, Alexandre Benois, ballet dancers Tamara Karsavina, Vaslav Nijinsky, scientists Vladimir Ipatieff, Otto Struve, philosophers Nikolai Berdyaev, Lev Shestov,etc. Second, the White Emigres, a group of patriots, who only left Russia in a direct threat to their lives, were forming strong cultural communities abroad, and sometimes were voluntarily refusing from obtaining foreign citizenship, in a hope of being able to return home.
The second emigration wave involved a more massive number of people. More than half a million of the 8.4 million Soviet citizens, many of whom found themselves in the Third Reich, stayed in the West (approximately 4.5 million returned or were forced to come back to the Soviet Union, around 2.2 million people died).
The third wave - "emigration of the Cold War" – occurred between 1948-1990. During this period, about half a million citizens left the Soviet Union, including the expelled dissidents. The USSR was a closed country. Once leaving, it was impossible to go back. (Some of the most famous representatives of this emigration period were writers Josef Brodsky and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, singer Galina Vishnevskaya, composer Mstislav Rostropovich, film director Rodion Nakhapetov, actor Vasiliy Kramarov, ballet dancers Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov).
In the 1990s, a newly formed Russia faced the fourth emigration wave. However, in contrast to the Soviet period, people no longer had to burn the bridges. Many emigrants would keep both passports or live "in two homes." Russian statistics data on that period is incomplete because the research bureau only counts the people who refused Russian citizenship. According to immigration authorities of the host countries, around 805,000 people moved for permanent residency from Russia to the United States, Canada, Israel, Germany and Finland between 1992 and 1999.
In the 2000s, the number of Russian emigrants reduced in half. But sociologists recognized the change in their “quality,” which gave the ground to define the fifth wave.
I first became interested in the fifth wave of Russian emigration phenomena seven years ago when I left Yekaterinburg to continue my education in Paris. I was acquainted with many immigrants from Russia and the post-Soviet territory which sparked my curiosity.
After two years in France, I left for Hong Kong, to receive an MFA degree in photography at the Savannah College of Art and Design. During my first year of studies, I worked on a documentary project about Russian models living in Hong Kong. Back then, my interest in Russian emigration was not as broad as it is now, I was specifically interested in the young people who were hoping to gain fame, a beautiful life and easy money working in the modeling business.
In November 2015, I moved to Prague, where I started to work on my new long-term documentary project about the fifth wave representatives. I aim to photograph around 100 environmental portraits, combined with the interviews with the goal of creating a photo book.
Every immigrant's story is unique; it is impossible to predict whether there is going to be more differences or similarities in their stories. I do not intend to lead this project as a political commentary, but undertake it with the understanding, that it may indirectly touch on such issues.
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