Komi-Land focuses on a community of forgotten Germans who were exiled to the Komi Republic, Russia during and after WWII. I was drawn to Komi, a region situated west of the Ural Mountains in the far north of the Russian European plain, because of its autonomous nature and my interest in the Russian Germans who make up a small amount of the indigenous population.

Working in and around German communities such as Syktyvkar, Ezhva, Maksakovka, Sedkyrkesch, Krasny, Zaton, and the industrial and woodworking areas, I came to know this culturally unique region.

The Komi Republic was occupied by the Trudarmeytsy Germans from the eastern regions of the USSR since 1942. Germans were exposed not only to national discrimination, but were also denied many civil rights. Their lives were shaped by various kinds of restrictions and prohibitions. These special settlers did not have passports, virtually transforming them into societal outcasts. Many people, including women and children, served time as prisoners in labor camps, working in coal mines, and building railway lines and housing.

The Russian Germans who wished to remain in the Komi decided to consolidate. They began to band together in places where they could preserve their national identity, culture, and language. Years later, these Russian Germans continue to struggle to maintain their identity and hold on to traditional values, while younger generations decide integrate into mainstream Russian culture.

—Brian Driscoll