Silent River

Eugenia Maximova

2018 - Ongoing

Ruse, Bulgaria

On October 6, 2018, 30-year old television journalist Victoria Marinova was brutally raped and murdered in the Bulgarian city of Ruse. In broad daylight, the young woman went for a run in a popular riverside park by the Danube from which she never returned. Her body later was found dumped in the bushes, battered beyond recognition.

The case caused an outcry in international media since Marinova was one of the few journalists who dared to speak up against the largescale corruption taking place in her country. Her violent death cast a stark spotlight not only on the widespread bribery involving the highest Bulgarian government circles but also on the unsafe working conditions for journalists. Reporters Without Borders ranked Bulgaria 111th out of 180 countries worldwide in their annual world press freedom index, which is the lowest in the European Union by far. The debate, however, silenced as abruptly as it began after only a few days, when 20-year old Severin K. of Roma descent was arrested as the alleged perpetrator and Bulgarian officials were quick to announce to the world that the deed had not been politically motivated but was merely a tragic coincidence.

While the case no longer makes headlines and Severin K. in all likelihood will be convicted for murder, Eugenia Maximova investigates in her current photo-project “Silent River” the wider circles and preconditions of this brutal death by the Danube. Applying both an artistic as well as a documentary approach, Maximova challenges the silence that so “conveniently” shrouded the case after only 48 hours. Setting out to capture the first 365 days with her middle format camera, Maximova addresses the broader socio-political aspects as well as the personal consequences that the murder of the young woman entailed for those she left behind: her friends and family, foremost her seven-year old daughter. In the spirit of the famous saying “the personal is political”, Maximova sets out to look for answers both as a woman, mother, journalist, artist and – bereaved. While Victoria Marinova’s murder may or may not have been connected to her work as a journalist, the fact remains that right in the middle of Europe, just by the beautiful Danube, we have a country that joined the EU in 2007 and that has a desolate human rights record: with widespread corruption and collusion between media, politicians, and oligarchs, an inefficient judiciary, repression of journalists, violence against women, and massive discrimination of the Roma community with pervasive poverty as the result. In the run-down quarter Severin K. grew up in, people don’t believe that he has committed the crime, but that he was selected as a scapegoat in exchange of money. “Silent River” is as much a subjective elegy as much as an uproar against the dismal enabling situation of modern day Bulgaria.

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