Tags / former USSR
While men ride horses into the game, children and young boys ride donkeys.
Riders try to wear warm clothes made of thick layers of cotton to prevent injuries from horses and other riders.
A carcass used for the game should first be beheaded. A regulation carcass weighs between 30 and 40 kg.
A game of Uloq has just begun before a packed audience in Ertosh, Uzbekistan.
Spectators try to find elevated places to have a good view on the game.
Riders are allowed to whip each other. They often hold their whips in their mouths while trying to control their horses with both hands.
Riders are not allowed to attack each other from the back, but all other kinds of physical attack are permitted.
Bizarrely and painfully, it is allowed for horses to bite riders and other horses. Riders often train their horses to perform such a trick on command.
Riders customarily pray before the start of the game.
One lucky rider (left) wears a Soviet tank brigadier helmet to the game. It's considered the best defense for a horseman's head.
The winner (right) will ride back to the jury with the carcass once he has planted it in the target.
The winner of the game of Uloq rides back towards the jury and spectators with his spoils.
A lone Uloq rider wanders with his horse in the field of battle at the end of the game.
Soviet era statues are being dismantled from the Green Bridge over the Neris river in Vilnius. Marks of corosion.
Photos by Umida Akhmedova
Uloq is the Uzbek version of the famous Asian Buzkashi game. This tradition was spread in Central Asia and Afghanistan by Mongols with their cult of horsemen. The rules are simple: riders compete for a carcass of a goat or a young ram. The winner has to cross the finish line on horseback without allowing other riders to rob him of his prey. Like Buzkashi, Uloq is an extremely dangerous sport: 100 or more horsemen usually fight for a one carcass. Major Uloq games are usually held in the spring or autumn, when the Central Asian peoples traditionally celebrate their weddings, and is often played before the arrival of their main Spring festival, Nowruz. The official Uloq Federation of Uzbekistan conducts frequent tournements and competitions, bringing together up to 500 riders and thousands of spectators to watch the fast, intense sport.
FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST
Riders from all the surrounding villages take part in an Uloq competition in Ertosh. Participating in Uloq competitions is considered a good way to demonstrate mens' strength to women.
Soviet era statues are being dismantled from the Green Bridge over the Neris river in Vilnius. Coat of the soldier statue.
Soviet era statues are being dismantled from the Green Bridge over the Neris river in Vilnius. Statues in winter.
Soviet era statues are being dismantled from the Green Bridge over the Neris river in Vilnius. Green bridge in winter.
Soviet era statues are being dismantled from the Green Bridge over the Neris river in Vilnius. Woman is passing by statues of soldiers in winter.
While the lives of Sapanta residents is marked by the rhythm of horse-drawn ploughs, of looms spinning wool into rough blankets and cloth for clothes, and the distilling of 'tuica' (TSUI-ka), a potent local fruit liquor; their deaths are marked with color and humor.
In this northern Romanian village, the “Merry Cemetery” brings smiles or cheeky grins to the faces of visitors and locals there to pay their respects to the dead. Colorfully painted, handed-crafted oak tombstones tell the stories of the lives and deaths of the deceased in a humorous, brutally honest tone. The “Merry Cemetery” in Sapanta is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and draws thousands of tourists every year.
The tradition started when a local woodworker named Stan Ioan Patras carved and painted the first tombstone in 1935, gracing it with a lighthearted epitaph that he came up with to commemorate the death of a neighbor. After his death in 1977, woodworker, painter, poet and farmer Dumitru Pop took residence in his workshop and kept the tradition alive. When a member of the community dies, he goes to work coming up with an (often hilarious) epitaph that best represents the deceased, carving a playful scene and painting the tombstone in bright blues, reds, greens and earthtones. Mr. Pop’s background in classical and contemporary Romanian literature gives his epitaphs a resonance that goes deep into the village’s collective memory.
Some ethnologists studying the cemetery believe that the lighthearted and humorous attitude towards death in this region may be a remnant of Dacian culture. Early inhabitants of Romania, the Dacians greeted death with open arms because it meant meeting the greatest of their gods, Zalmoxis. As in many cultures, certain attitudes and practices were easily integrated into monotheistic worldviews that came later, in this case Orthodox Christianity. According to a local Orthodox priest, people in the region do not necessarily see death as if it were a tragedy, but rather as a passage to another life.
The practice even survived Romania’s communist era despite Soviet communism’s largely atheistic and secular worldview. A grave marker commemorating Ioan Holdis, a local Communist official reads:
“As long as I lived, I loved the Party And all my life I tried to help the people.”
However, the best loved epitaphs are the funniest, the ones that make mourning and remembering the dead a hilarious affair:
“Under this heavy cross Lies my poor mother in-law
Three more days she would have lived
I would lie, and she would read (this cross).
You, who here are passing by
Not to wake her up please try
Cause' if she comes back home
She'll criticize me more.
But I will surely behave
So she'll not return from grave.
Stay here, my dear mother in-law!”
Shot list and Subtitles
(00:05 – 00:11) W/S In a small village in Romania, a cemetery makes people smile. (00:12 -00:17) D/M Cheerful, colourful tombstones tell the stories of people who lived in the village of Sapanta in country’s north. (00:18 – 00:23) D/S The unconventional way of commemorating the deceased cheerfully and honestly shows death as an inevitability. (00:24 – 00:29) D/S Gravestones here tell of the persons virtues but tell the truth about their vices. (00:30 – 00:35) W/S The “Merry Cemetery” was declared as a UNESCO site, (00:36 – 00:41) W/S one of the reasons Sapanta is among the most visited Romanian villages. (00:42 – 00:47) W/S A church in the middle of the cemetery solemnly venerates the saints (00:48 – 00:53) D/S But common mortals may be humorous. (00:54 – 00:59) M/M Thanks to vibrant illustrations, visitors understand the stories of people from the village even if they don’t read Romanian. (01:00 – 01:05) M/S “Here lies the good tractor operator.” (01:06 – 01:11) D/S “Here the hardworking farmer rests in peace.” (01:12 – 01:17) M/M This person died in a car accident. (01:18 – 01:23) D/S “Father and son.” (01:24 – 01:29) D/S “A man drowned in the river.” (01:30 – 01:35) M/S The first painted wooden cross was made here in 1935. (01:36 – 01:41) M/M This humorous way of commemorating the dead was the idea of local woodworker Stan Ioan Patras. (01:42 – 01:47) W/M He lived and worked on his carvings in this house near the cemetery. (01:48 – 01:53) M/S He even carved naive portraits of Romanian communist dictator Ceausescu and his government (01:54 – 01:59) M/S and of notable townsmen. (02:00 – 02:05) W/M The workshop has bustled with activity and honest humor ever since. After Patras’ death in 1977, Dumitru Pop took over the workshop. (02:06 – 02:11) W/S Locals believe that humorous verses are the best way to remember their loved ones. (02:18 – 02:23) But they are not allowed to tell Dumitru what shall he write. (02:24 – 02:29) D/S Each wooden is crafted precisely by hand.. (02:30 – 02:35) D/S They are all made from local oak (02:36 – 02:41) M/S and painted with vivid colours. The main color is blue, the color of heaven, where the living strive to end up. (02:42 – 02:47) M/S Dumitru says that the epitaphs are all true stories. (02:48 – 02:53) D/S Perhaps death is easier, knowing that his learned hands will make a cheerful tombstone in ones commemoration. (02:54 – 02:59) D/S “Busy housewives but also mischiefs are waiting for them.” (03:00 – 03:05) D/S On the tombstone of a distiller the epitaph reads: “Everybody in Sapanta loved me, as I produced elixir of life.
During the winter in St. Petersburg, time seems to stand still when night falls, and the white mist all around begs lovers never to leave each other, keeps the city's youth together. After the fall of the Soviet Union and Communism, emerging Russian youth cultures strongly felt the influences of their contemporary American and European neighbors.
Twenty years later, St. Petersburg has rid itself of the myth of being a city of sex tourism. Today St. Petersburg has taken on a more European air, and to the youth feels more akin to Generation Y dream cities like Berlin and London. It is about post-perestroika youth pushing the limits of culture where it was once forbidden to watch western films, listen to western radio or even wear bluejeans.