Moscow 1995. Russia has reached the climax of the post-Soviet economic transformation crisis. Russia’s first president Boris Yeltsin, to whom his protégé Vladimir Putin will later pay homage as a "courageous, bold leader of Russia", has already held power for four years after the collapse and dissolution of the Soviet Union. Extensive privatization programs under Yeltsin’s leadership have plunged the country into chaos. The enormous transfer of state property into the hands of the oligarchs who support his government has led to the impoverishment of millions of people.
When German-Ukrainian photographer Miron Zownir travels to Moscow in the summer of 1995, he discovers an exceptional level of abject misery. While the international community pays attention to Yeltsin’s first war in Chechnya, back home on the streets of the Russian capital homeless people are rotting alive covered by flies, old women starve to death on the pavements for all the world to see, others desperately sell their last belongings or even their bodies. In the dark shadows of public awareness Miron Zownir finds a situation which he described as "Dante's Inferno" at that time. The silent brutality of his photographs is more than hard to take and adjusts the viewer’s perception into a state of nightmarish distance. They record a cynical crime against humanity, for which Boris Yeltsin had never assumed political responsibility – on the contrary despite all the allegations of corruption, lifelong immunity from prosecution was assured to him by his successor Vladimir Putin.
Today, almost twenty years later, Putin makes use of the same strategy in Ukraine as his mentor did in Chechnya, ensuring media distraction from the massive domestic political problems in Russia. No one seems to speak anymore about the suppression of the opposition, homophobic laws, journalist killings, international corruption entanglements. Let alone the inhumane lives of the poorest of the poor. Who dares to gaze into that abyss?
Miron Zownir’s photographic documentation of this dark chapter in Russian history, which has been ignored by much of the Western world, is now finally out in its entirety under the title DOWN AND OUT IN MOSCOW published by Berlin-based Pogo Books Publishing. This courageous publication provides unbearable evidence of a crime against human dignity, which unfortunately was never brought to indictment. It can be understood as a call for social and political reflection of world history.