July 15, 2020

Karelia, a remote land of death and magic | Culture


"Andres, you are Karelian." This was the statement of the Russian composer Oleg Karavaychuk after seeing the film that the Spanish filmmaker of Venezuelan origin Andrés Duque filmed about his father. In the aesthetics and magic of that film -which mixed a director's trip to Mozambique with the illness of his father- the pianist saw a clear relationship with that unknown region of his country. And so, for Duque, the documentary began Karelia: International with monument, in which nature and fantasy come together in opposition to a historical reality of persecutions and murders. Karelia extends between Russia and Finland and historically has been subjected to numerous political vicissitudes, in which it has belonged to four different countries.

"Its myths and legends, its animistic rituals and its epic songs have been eclipsed by the processes of internal colonization or Russification," explains Duque about the film, which the BBVA Foundation plans for the public as of this Friday, November 30. , in Madrid. The Karelian culture is now practically extinct, there are only about 650,000 Karelia, located on the border line, and about half live in Petrozavodsk, the capital of this territory called as a republic, but has never become one. It is extinct "not only because of the progressive process of homogenization with Russia, but because of the Great Purge of the Stalin period, where the persecution of politicians, intellectuals and ethnic minorities began. Many karelia died there just for the sake of it, "says the filmmaker.

In spite of the warning of his Russian acquaintances that he was not going to find any vestige of this culture, Duque launched himself in his search for villages, hamlets and remote areas. Until about 30 kilometers inside the forest he found a house and knocked on the door. "And it was love at first sight." Thus he met the Pankrat'ev, a Christian-Orthodox family that still keeps alive some of the rituals that evoke their shaman ancestors. "The coincidences have something magical. And I find this family, and I discover that they have a capacity for observation, a way of relating to nature, a beauty so special that I said it is already, I'm not looking for more, this is what I'm looking for, "says the filmmaker.

In the documentary, Duque shows reality in a game between magic and fantasy: "I like to investigate what is fantastic in the everyday, building landscapes that work as an artistic refuge". And the landscape has a double bottom: "On the one hand it is a place where an almost paradigmatic family lives, where you notice happiness, intelligence, beauty, and being in the forest, but there, under the earth, there is an incredible story, murders. "

Frame of the documentary 'Carelia: Internacional con monumento', by Andrés Duque.
Frame of the documentary 'Carelia: Internacional con monumento', by Andrés Duque.

The Dmitriev case and the common graves of Sandarmoh

Almost parallel to the discovery of the family Pankrat'ev, the Russian historian Yuri Dmitriev was arrested. This human rights activist investigated Stalin's Great Purge for two decades and found approximately 240 mass graves out of the hundreds that undermine the Sandarmoh forest massif, now a funerary monument. The expert is accused of pedophilia and possession of child pornography in a case related to his stepdaughter.

"Your project has always been supported by the Government and suddenly it has become a problem of State, so it is in prison for charges that do not correspond to reality, "says Duque. "There is a saying in Russia that states: 'The past is more uncertain than the future.' And that is a great truth, in Russia there seems to be an obsession to constantly rewrite history and what the Dmitriev case points to, like many others. of human rights that are happening in the country, is that they are trying to cover up any image that may be negative, there is fear, because of the past, a lot of fear and a lot of paranoia. "

"And I am realizing that in the material I am recording, a series of coincidences begins to take place, a fixation of the children towards the holes, in their innocence, because they are not aware that really, under Karelian lands, there are thousands and thousands of dead, of murdered, not only Karelia, but of many parts of the world, "Duque emphasizes. It is estimated that only in Sandarmoh and Krasni Bor, which are the two places where the mass graves that Dmitriev discovered, there are around 10,000 dead.

After this contrast of sensations that fade and balance, the documentary concludes with this explanation, in red letters on a black background: "President Vladimir Putin created the Military Historical Society, in December 2012 to 'consolidate the forces of the State and the society in the study of the Russian past. And counteract any distortion effort. The Military Historical Society is part of a growing tendency of the Putin regime to cover up a genocide, and as a result, in January 2017 a record 46% of Russian citizens see Stalin in a positive light. "

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