Crimea Sich
Project info

CRIMEA SICH is a military training camp for children aged 7 to 16 years old in the Crimea Mountains. I discovered the camp in 2010. And for 2 years in a row I kept going back there each summer to complete a photo project about it. The camp itself captured my attention. My goal was to understand why at such tender age children needed to be taught how to deal with real weapons in time of peace, who were that kids and why they were there.

After my first year in the camp, I noticed that the majority of the children are young cossacks who are trained in their home countries. The trainings in the camp consist of the early morning exercises, hand-to-hand Kadochnikov system combat, studying military maneuvers in various terrains, as well as target shooting using real fire arms and ammunition, and mountain climbing, just to name a few. Former military officers who have previously participated in the combat operations and took part in actual wars teach the kids everything they know.

Cossacks are very closely connected with religion from the very old times. Thats why a significant role at the camp plays instilling the Orthodox Christian values into the kids. When I asked children and officers who they are and what nationality they are, they answered that their nationality is Cossack. They don’t have any other nationalities, and nothing will split them.

The more time I spent there, the more I realized that this story is much deeper than I thought before, and that it is impossible to tell it only through a photo project. In 2013 I returned to the camp, this time with my brother, to start shooting the documentary. In a couple of months the Ukrainian revolution started, after Russia annexed Crimea and started the war in Donbass (Eastern Ukraine). It turned out that we captured the very last year of camp's existence in its original form. When children from Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Belarus were training there together.

Using this camp as an example, we can understand that the conflicted started a few decades ago, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. And now he separates not only the territories and countries of the former USSR, but Cossacks, who considered themselves as one people. And now they are fighting against each other.

Who are Cossacks: Cossacks are a group of predominantly East Slavic-speaking people who became known as members of democratic, self-governing, semi-military communities, predominantly located in Ukraine and in Russia. They played an important role in the historical and cultural development of both Ukraine and Russia.

What is Sich: It is the administrative and military center for Cossacks. It comes from the Ukrainian word siktý which means "to chop," or clear a forest for an encampment. Thus indicates that the first settlements of the Cossacks were placed on the forested islands.