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North Caucasus

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Time once more for a look at the animal kingdom and our interactions with the countless species that share our planet. Today's photos include Iranian dog owners under pressure, a bloom of mayflies, Kim Jong-un visiting Breeding Station No. 621, animals fleeing recent fires and floods, and a dachshund receiving acupuncture therapy. These images and many others are part of this roundup of animals in the news from recent weeks, seen from the perspectives of their human observers, companions, captors, and caretakers, part of an ongoing series on animals in the news. [38 photos]

James Hyslop, a Scientific Specialist at Christie's auction house holds a complete sub-fossilised elephant bird egg on March 27, 2013 in London, England. The massive egg, from the now-extinct elephant bird sold for $101,813 at Christie's "Travel, Science and Natural History" sale, on April 24, 2013 in London. Elephant birds were wiped out several hundred years ago. The egg, laid on the island of Madagascar, is believed to date back before the 17th century. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)     

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The time to enter the 25th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest is running short -- entries will be accepted for another few days, until June 30, 2013. The first prize winner will receive a 10-day Galapagos expedition for two. National Geographic was once more kind enough to allow me to share some of the later entries with you here, gathered from four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place, and Spontaneous Moments. Photos and captions by the photographers. Also, be sure to see Part 1, earlier on In Focus. [46 photos]

From the 'Sense of Place' category, a couple paddle out for a sunset surf in the coastal surfing town of Byron Bay, Australia. (© Ming Nomchong/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)     

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burn magazine

Emerging Photographer Fund – 2013 Recipient

 

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EPF 2013 WINNER

 Diana Markosian

My Father, The Stranger

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I knocked on the door of a stranger.

I’ve traveled halfway around the world to meet him.

My father.

I was seven years old when I last saw him.

As the Soviet Union collapsed, so did my family.

I remember my father and I dancing together in our tiny apartment in Moscow and him giving me my first doll.

I also remember him leaving.

Sometimes he would be gone for months at a time and then unexpectedly be back.

Until, one day, it was our turn to leave.

My mother woke me up and told me to pack my belongings. She said we were going on a trip. The next day, we arrived at our new home, California.

We hardly ever spoke of my father. I had no pictures of him, and over time, forgot what he looked like.

I often wondered what it would have been like to have a father.

I still do.

This is my attempt to piece together a picture of a familiar stranger.

 

Bio

Diana Markosian is a documentary photographer and writer.

Her reporting has taken her from Russia’s North Caucasus mountains, to the ancient Silk Road in Tajikistan and overland to the remote Wakhan Corridor in northeastern Afghanistan.

Diana’s images have appeared in The New York Times, The Sunday Times, Marie Claire, Foreign Policy, Foto8, Time.com, World Policy Journal, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, amongst others.

Her work has been recognized by a diverse range of organizations including UNICEF, AnthropoGraphia, Ian Parry Scholarship, Marie Claire Int’l, National Press Photography Association, Columbia University and Getty Images. In 2011, Diana’s image of the terrorist mother was awarded photo of the year by Reuters.

She holds a masters from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

 

Related links

Diana Markosian

 

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One of the oldest forms of storytelling is that of re-enactment, donning the costumes of the story's subjects, miming their actions, performing a narrative before a live audience. Whether organized by history enthusiasts, government offices, religious groups, or just for fun, military battles and religious events are the most popular subjects for re-enactment. Collected here are recent performances from around the world, covering a few events from the past 2,000 years. [36 photos]

Actors wearing military uniforms of the Hungarian and Austrian Hapsburg dynasty reenact the first stage of the 1849 Battle of Isaszeg, Hungary, on April 6, 2013 during the Isaszeg Historical Days event. The battle was part of the Spring Campaign of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 between the Austrian Empire and the Hungarian Revolutionary Army. (Peter Kohalmi/AFP/Getty Images)     

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The historic flooding throughout central Europe continues, as the Elbe River has broken through several dikes in northern Germany, and the crest of the swollen Danube River has reached southern Hungary, and threatens Serbia. Parts of Austria and the Czech Republic are now in recovery mode, as thousands of residents return home to recover what they can. Gathered here are images from the past several days of those affected by these continuing floods. See earlier entry: Flooding Across Central Europe. [24 photos]

A garden with a swimming pool is inundated by the waters of the Elbe River during floods near Magdeburg in the state of Saxony Anhalt, on June 10, 2013. Tens of thousands of Germans, Hungarians and Czechs were evacuated from their homes as soldiers raced to pile up sandbags to hold back rising waters in the region's worst floods in a decade. (Reuters/Thomas Peter)     

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Early this morning, Turkish riot police stormed Taksim Square, the center of recent anti-government protests in Istanbul, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at firework-hurling demonstrators, pushing many of the protesters who had occupied the square for more than a week into a nearby park. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said today he had "no more tolerance" for the mass anti-government demonstrations that have engulfed the country and killed three protesters and one police officer. [40 photos]

A protester tries to remain standing as police use a water cannon during clashes at Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 11, 2013. Hundreds of police in riot gear forced their way through barricades in the square early Tuesday, pushing many of the protesters who had occupied the square for more than a week into a nearby park. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)     

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Reuters photographer Yannis Behrakis, based in Athens, spent several weeks documenting the unemployed and homeless in Greece as the continued economic downturn has impacted the numbers of homeless. Since the debt crisis erupted in 2009, hundreds of thousands of Greeks have lost their jobs -- the unemployment rate in the country reached 26.8 percent, as the economy contracted by another 5.6 percent in the first quarter of 2013, and even stricter austerity measures are being urged. See also Portraits of Greece in Crisis from last year. [23 photos]

Alexandros, a 42-year-old from Serres in northern Greece, sits in the abandoned car he lives in, at the port of Piareus near Athens, on April 10, 2013. Alexandros owned a plant shop in Athens until 2010, when it was forced to close, he became homeless soon after. According to Praxis, a non-governmental organization, the number of homeless in Greece has nearly doubled to over 20,000 from 11,000 in 2009. (Reuters/Yannis Behrakis)     

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Maria Turchenkova

Despite the reduction of large-scale military operations 10 years ago in Chechnya, a guerrilla war waged by Islamic fundamentalists rages on, and has brought a striking level of violence and bloody insurgency to the neighboring Caucasus republic of Dagestan.

For decades, and in much of the world’s eyes, all the news coming from the North Caucasus seemed focused on the cataclysm in Chechnya. Now, with Grozny slowly emerging from decades of chaos, Dagestan – the largest, most heterogeneous and, today, the most violent republic in the North Caucasus region – is raising its international profile, but for all the wrong reasons.

With a population of about 3 million people, Dagestan — bordering Chechnya, with the Caspian Sea to the east and Georgia and Azerbaijan to the south — is comprised of more then 40 ethnic groups. Ethnic Russians make up roughly four and half percent of the republic’s total population, while political power is held mainly by the two largest groups: the Avar and Dargin, both of whom practice Sufism, or the region’s traditional brand of Islam. Recently, however, Salafism — a puritanical form of Islam practiced largely in Saudi Arabia — has begun to make inroads, further complicating the already tangled political and religious picture.

Split by seemingly intractable social and religious differences and with almost a half of its territory locked down under a special security regimen (CTO, or “counter-terrorist operation”), Dagestan’s populace endures martial law, rigid curfews and random searches enforced by the Russian military.

For most Russian citizens, meanwhile, the North Caucasus is peopled not by neighbors or citizens but by stereotypes. A mountain region, alien and dangerous, it is populated (in the Russian popular imagination) by suicide bombers and terrorists. Period.

The Jamaats—local Islamic societies—comprise the vast majority of active anti-Russian Islamist fighters in Dagestan. Numbering somewhere around 500, by best estimates, Jamaats manage to replace those killed in action with newly joined militants in a remarkably timely manner. The reason for this renewable source of fighters is, in fact, rather simple: namely, the fundamentalists find fertile ground to propagate their ideas in the region’s remote, mountainous villages — as well as via the Internet. As the Dagestan justice system is largely ruled by nepotism, Russian law and order doesn’t have real power and most people find it impossible to receive justice from local authorities. Jamaats’ leaders, meanwhile, claim to be the “legitimate authority of Dagestan” and are candid about their aim of establishing a “fair society” based on Shari’a law. As the years pass, more and more people convert to Salafism.

Dagestan’s society is still deeply split. The gap between the richest and the poorest is enormous — and, like everywhere else, is rapidly growing. Conservatives, including many traditional Muslims, who still feel an allegiance to Russia certainly do not accept the “Islamization” of their country and their culture, while many others simply vote with their passports — emigrating from the republic entirely. The men, women and children who stay behind must somehow find ways to endure in the midst of their country’s hidden war.

Maria Turchenkova is a freelance documentary photographer based in Moscow. She was recently selected to attend the 2013 World Press Joop Swart Masterclass.

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