On December 17, at 5 pm, the exhibition “The Earth’s Circle. Kolodozero ”, which tells the story of Arkady, a punk priest from Tallinn, will open. The photographer used her camera to capture Arkady’s life and activities in the village of Kolodozero in Karelia from 2009 to 2018, until the tragic death of Arkady.
The village of Kolodozero, hidden deep in the woods of Puudos, is located on the border of the Arkhangelsk Oblast and Karelia in Russia. Fifteen years ago these places fascinated three friends from Moscow who were wandering around the Nordic countries and looking for the meaning of life and, most likely, themselves. In 2000 they pooled their money together and started to build a new church to replace the old one that had burned down in 1977. They also found a future clergyman: the ordination was accepted by one of the friends, a redhead rebel and punk called Arkady Shlykov (1973-2018), who graduated from the Moscow Theological Seminary in 2005.
This photo documentary is about the punk priest Arkady. During his short life, Arkady was associated with Tallinn, where he lived from 1973 until Estonia regained its independence in 1991. At school he was sharp, read a lot and adored football. His school uniform was therefore always dirty and dusty. When the Soviet Union began to disintegrate, Arkady turned to religion. As a teenager, he began attending Orthodox worship services. Arkady warmly welcomed Estonia’s independence, attended demonstrations and recorded these events with his camera. The protagonist’s unique photos of the Estonian mood during the transition period are also presented in the exhibition.
Arkady was also part of what can be called Tallinn’s bohemian underground. He knew all Estonian punk musicians, went to their concerts, wore a leather jacket with rivets and punk attributes, and delved into punk philosophy. In his youth Arkady spent many summers in Pechory, where his grandparents lived and where he had a connection with the local monastery. This must have inspired Arkady to become a priest. His punk spirit survived, and so he was considered a punk priest as a clergyman.
When Arkady and his friends began to restore the church in Kolodozero 40 years after its burning the locals were at first very sceptical about his punk attitude. But thanks to Arkady’s ambition and will to act, he was accepted in the hearts of everyone in the end.
In addition to the villagers, the church was also open to outcasts, so that they too could rediscover the meaning and path of their lives. They all accepted his inner and outer sense of freedom, accepting his rock star attitude, behind which was a truly peaceful and gentle nature.
But improving the world is never easy. Arkady and his friends wanted to change the village life, to breathe new life into it. However, the indifference of Russia’s northern hinterland proved stronger than the sincere spiritual aspirations of the newcomer. It was not possible to create a full-fledged congregation from the local inhabitants of Kolodozero. Despite the huge number of friends from all over the country and abroad who visited the priest’s house, Arkady was alone in his efforts. The locals loved him, asked for help and received it, but they did not go to church.
On February 12, 2018, a sad message came from Kolodozero. Priest Arkady Shlykov died unexpectedly after a heart attack. He was only 45 years old. During his years in Kolodozero he took the problems and worries of all the villagers very personally, helping people selflessly. He also visited distant communities in a modest way, namely by hitchhiking, to baptise, to attend funerals, or simply to serve in the temple. And at one point, at the time when a brutal murder was committed in his own house in Kolodozero, Arkady’s heart succumbed.
After the death of the priest, the village appears empty. The church is closed, no services are held. People live their lives without really realising what kind of soul they lost. This story is about the cold and warmth of northern Russia and a man who just wanted to bring light and faith to the people.
The entire photo project was taken with an analogue camera and using black and white film. The exhibition presents original works made by hand in the dark room, using the silver gelatine method. The photographer is planning to continue the project “The Earth’s Circle. Kolodozero” and to document life there even after the death of the punk priest Arkady.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Documentary photographer Ekaterina Solovieva (b. 1977) was born in Moscow and graduated from the university with a degree in journalism, but has been living and working in Hamburg, Germany since 2006. Her creative work focuses mainly on the lives of the rural people living in the countries of the former Soviet Union. In particular, it focuses on people associated with religious traditions and practices, showing their spiritual aspirations, lives and destinies. Two documentaries have been published by Solovieva: “Pilgrimage” (2014, Bad Weather Press, Amsterdam) and “The Earth’s Circle. Kolodozero” (2018, published by Schilt, Madrid). She has had solo exhibitions in Germany, Russia, Italy; she has also participated in many international group exhibitions in the USA, Russia, Germany, etc. The artist has won several international awards for her projects – for example, she is the winner of the Helsinki Photo Festival 2018, she was mentioned at the Critical Mass Awards 2018 and the 2017 Landskruna Photofestival, and she achieved the third place at the 2017 Moscow Photobookfest, etc.
The photographer’s website: ekaterinasolovieva.com
Curator: Annika Haas
Design: Anne Järvpõld and Annika Haas
The exhibition is open from 17.12.2021 to 05.06.2022
Thank you so much! Yelena Kuprina-Lyakhovich, Anne Järvpõld, Andres Lall, Eve Veigel, Madis Reemann, Merle Tank, Alisa Kishenya, Julia Korneyeva, Milena Gamzina, Keiti Männama