A guide to creative Russia
Photography

Hide and seek: a rare glimpse into one of Russia’s last closed cities

Photographer Ksenia Yurkova has an eye for the unusual. Her series Zarechny succeeds in capturing a rare relic of the Soviet era. The town of Zarechny sits some 640km southeast of Moscow. It is one of the 44 last remaining closed cities left in Russia; under Communism it was not even shown on the map. Although they are free to come and go, the city’s 62,000 inhabitants live encircled by a fence of barbed wire. “With cheap food and low salaries and the absence of political tensions either with nationalists or the opposition, Zarechny looks like a model Socialist wonderland,” says Yurkova. “The city represents to me a side of Russia that no one can see while travelling as a tourist.” Even today, Zarechny is full of out-of-bounds areas, most notably Rosatom, a state-owned corporation that manufactures parts for nuclear weapons; photography is banned there. Despite the restrictions, Yurkova provides an intimate portrait of life in the city. “I’ve always been interested in what is hidden,” she says. “I’ve always tried to enter closed doors, to get into guarded areas. The paradox I've noticed in Russian people is that they want to guard things that are useless while things that are actually valuable are left unattended.”

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Hide and seek

A rare glimpse into one of Russia’s last closed cities