The Votes. Last Voices.

Oleg Ponomarev

2018 - Ongoing

Votes are the smallest ethnic group in Russia. Votes have inhabited Ingria (now Leningrad oblast in Russia, to the west of St. Petersburg). They have first been mentioned in XI century, long before Saint Petersburg was built. The number of Votes decreases rapidly (705 Votes in 1926, 100 in 1948 and no more than 61 Votes in 1991). No more than ten native speakers of Votic language are still living, thus the language is dying out, although the attempts have been made to reestablish Votic language, remnants of traditional culture and folklore: dictionaries and fairy tales published.

For past 100 years life of these fishermen and farmers changed rapidly: The Second World War, deportation, ban on the language, soviet repressions, modern building industry near their villages many factors caused almost full assimilation. They managed to keep the last fragments of their culture and continue to live on their historical land. Now there are very little Votes left, so the future is unclear.

{{ readMoreButton }}

  • The Luga Bay, passage to the Gulf of Finland. The Votes have been living on this land for more than ten centuries, but once large ethnic group has now been reduced to only a few people. 2019.

  • Untitled. 2019.

  • Zinaida Savelieva in her garden. Zinaida is the only native speaker of Votic language left, who is able to speak Votic freely, knows songs and poems. She is also the only Vote, who lives in the village all year round. 2018.

  • Untitled. 2019.

  • Nina Lenivenko. 2019.

  • Untitled. 2018.

  • Nina Vittong in her apple garden. Nina is the activist who fought against the construction of the sea-port and industrial area close the village. The house, where Nina was born and lived with her husband and children, was burnt down in 2001. The investigation found that must have been an arson, but no one was charged guilty. After the fire the couple built a new house close to where the old one stood. Vittongs continue to oppose construction works that may threaten the village. Nina is sure that after their death the village will be demolished, the rest of the people will be evicted, the land will be used for industrial purposes and Votic culture will be lost forever. 2019.

  • Ust-Luga timber terminals. 2019.

  • Taisiya Mikhailova. 2018.

  • Grain scoop with a family sign. 2018.

  • Untitled. 2018.

  • Vera Safronova in Votic costume sits in the hallway of her house. Vera founded a museum in her own home in order to preserve vanishing Votic culture. 2018.

  • Untitled. 2019.

  • Vladimir Yudin. 2019.

  • Bedroom of a Votic fisherman. A net that is about to be repaired hangs near the bed. 2019.

  • Nikolay Wittong. 2019.

  • Untitled. 2018.

  • Alexey Ermolaev in his shed with fishing nets. Alexey is a hereditary fisherman and the last Votic fisherman who lives on Votic land. The construction of the seaport changed the fish migration routes, fishery laws have been further tightened and most fishermen have thus gave up fishery, but Alexey does not want to change his life. 2019.

  • Ust-Luga timber terminals. 2019.

  • Zinaida Savelieva walks home. When the autumn falls and till spring, she is almost the only one person in the village. 2018.