Svetlana Bulatova documentary photographer

Monument of the One’s Grief

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During wars and armed conflicts, many go missing on both sides. Relatives of missing people are forced to live in constant expectation: news of death or a return home. It gets better only when the missing person’s fate becomes clear. People have the right to know what happened to their missing relatives. The first armed conflict in the history of modern Russia was the ethnic conflict in the North Caucasus between Ossetians and Ingush in October 1992.

“My father Osman Buruzhev, my brother Daud Buruzhev, my brother Ibragim Buruzhev, my brother Khizir Buruzhev, my uncle Magomed Buruzhev, my cousin Abdul-Azit Buruzhev. — Hanifa points at the names on the tombstones, explaining the degree of relationship. “And my aunt. Here’s a misprint: Madinat Buruzheva”. All these people are missing. There are only the name and the birth year on the identical granite gravestones with a crescent moon. Their graves are empty. Hanifa’s mother, who devoted her whole life to searching for her husband and sons, bequeathed to be buried in a nearby cemetery: “If my boys are buried here, I want to be close to them”.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, armed conflicts began to break out one after another in the territories of the former Soviet republics, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of victims.
The 1992 war conflict on the border of two southern mountainous Russian republics happened long ago and too far away from me. I’ve never been there. After 30 years, I went to Ingushetia, one of Russia’s smallest republics, to document the aftermath of the armed conflict. I am convinced that the consequences of armed conflict are as noteworthy as the horror of war. I believe post-conflict portraits of the people I photographed testify to dignity rather than misery despite the hardship they experienced.