Capturing Russia from white to black, north to south, east to west

Anna: Mother of Twins

NOVOSIBIRSK: ''When I gave birth to my boys, I was a bit worried about being alone. I don't have relatives nearby. When they both cried, I didn't know which one to pick up first. ''I took the one that cried the loudest. The most difficult thing is when then express thrir emotions - it is always twice the laughter and happiness and caprice," said Anna, a mother of twins and a Sibir hockey fan. Aside from taking care of the twins and home, she finds time for herself. She attends workouts 3 times a week and goes to hockey games. "It all depends on you and your desire. If you want something, you will find time for it. And of course my husband sits with the boys in such cases."

Anna: Lawyer, Small Business Owner

NOVOSIBIRSK: Anna worked as a lawyer until recently, quiting to start her own small business. Next year, she would like to start her own family. Anna said that while she was in university, she wanted to become a criminal lawyer. However, after seeing what it involved - photos of murder scenes - she decided to take another law job with the state. She is now setting up a business to rent out commercial space for small retail stores. She explained her decision to leave law staying that working for the state simply doesn't pay enough.

Daniil: Village Basketball Coach

NOVOSIBIRSK REGION VILLAGE: "I hope to train at least one great athlete," said Daniil, a Siberian village school basketball coach. He was taking his 2.5-year old daughter to day care on a sleigh. The number of parents taking their children around on sleighs (some are dual usage with wheels) in Novosibirsk region caught my attention.  Daniil said he got into basketball as a young boy while watching Jordan, Kirilenko and later Kobe. If Daniil manages to produce a great athlete, it would be the second to come from this small village after 1984 winter Olympic medalist Sergei Bulygin.

Andrei: IT Specialist, Pagan Slavic

NOVOSIBIRSK: Andrei was making the 40 minute walk home from work in Novosibirsk in a short-sleeve shirt amid -1c on this first day of winter. The 52-year old IT specialist and father of 5 said he has been dressing so in winter since 2009. It is part of a series of changes in his life since 2005 that includes a greater focus on religion and health. A pagan Slavic adherent who goes by the name Gostoslav, he gave up drinking and smoking and now runs a social media page devoted to the meaning of life. He also chairs his residential housing committee. He says dealing with tenant problems is stressful, but his walks in the cold has trained his mind and body for just such difficulties.

Vlad: Engineer Making Matryoshka Dolls

MOSCOW: ‘’When the first satellite was sent into space, my father came home with a bonus, cash, in his hands. It was so much, that you could buy a Volga car,’’ Vladimir said, recalling one of the happy childhood moments.

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Nafset: Seeing-Impaired Singer

MOSCOW: ‘’It was very painful. I didn’t want my family to leave me at the boarding school. A teacher calmed me down, but when I went to look for [my relatives], I was told they left. It was very traumatic. My mom wasn’t allowed to meet me for a while. They said I had to get used to this school,’’ said Nafset, a native of Adygar in perfect English….

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Nina: Teenage Model

MOSCOW: ''When I said I wanted to be a model, my father had a negative reaction. But once I started to live without their help, travel abroad, they supported me. I told them modeling is just a way for me to have a career in fashion. I can go to university in a year, but I am not sure I can be a model in a year,’’ said Nina, 17, in excellent English. She spoke with a self-confidence that made her seem early 20s. ''I have a lot of life experience - traveling makes you wiser than your age would indicate,’’ she added. Nina said she has worked in Singapore and takes care of her own visas. She has already changed three agents. ''If you want to have career, you need to find a goid agent who is interested in your future and not just money.’’ While she models, she is working on setting up her own photo shoots with the idea of perhaps someday working in a magazine. 

Bulat & Oscar: IT Startup

KAZAN: Bulat, left, launched a startup to develop mobile technology and invited friends to join. Bulat said there are about 30 startups in Kazan in his niche. The Tatarstan government stimulates local IT growth through various forums where startups can present. ‘’If you have a good idea, you can even get a meeting with the Tatarstan President. As the government is interested in IT development, there are no administrative barriers,’’ he said. Bulat offered the idea of a virtual presentation of Kazan city (3D) and his project was chosen. His team also developed an app for the 2015 Water Sport Championship held in Kazan. Bulat and his colleague Oscar (right) believe there is plenty of demand in Russia for IT as many companies haven’t invested enough. The generational change in Russian management will be another stimulus to investment in innovation in their view.

Alona: Craft Beer Bar Owner

KAZAN: "I winced and spit," said Alyona, 26, recalling the first time she tried craft beer at the bar she works at. However, with time, she came to enjoy such brews. After returning from a vacation, she decided she wanted to have her own business and not just work at an Irish pub. After speaking with a friend, they decided to open a bar specializing in craft beer. The bar opened in May on the popular Baumen street in Kazan. The bar offers about two dozen Russian craft beers and foreign brews as well. Alona splits her time between working at an Irish pub, where I photographed her and the small craft-beer bar. I asked Alyona how her family reacted to her becoming a bar owner. "My mom was scared, she was worried that I would lose all my money. She doesn't understand that I am doing well."

Robert: Culture Center Founder

KAZAN: When Robert first saw the cultural centers appearing in old factories in Moscow in the 2000s, he dreamed of opening one in his home town of Kazan. The lack of such spots were among the reasons people in the arts were leaving for the bigger cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Nearly a decade after that dream, Robert was able to convince the owner of a run down, historical building to turn the second floor into lecture hall, book store and gallery. The first floor, which was a car-washing business, will soon be turned into a cafe and restaurant. ‘’Everyone now understands that such projects are necessary for the socio-cultural development of cities,'' said Robert, who tries to get Moscow-based artists and cultural figures to come to Kazan to give lectures.  Robert said his SMENA, as the cultural center is called, is also publishing books of local writers. His book store aims to carry cultural books in Russian and English that can't be found at other books stores in Kazan.

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