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Unlike most Olympic host sites of the past, many Americans had never heard of Sochi before it entered the running. The subtropical Russian city remains a mystery to many, but that might be changing.
An exhibit at Chicago’s DePaul Art Museum, “The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus,” gives visitors a crash course in the place’s history, politics and culture. The show is the work of two Dutch journalists — the photographer Rob Hornstra and writer Arnold van Bruggen. They have undertaken the project since 2007.
“It’s the romantic cliche of your summer vacation in Russia and in the former Soviet Union,” van Bruggen told Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson. “It’s very much Soviet nostalgia in Sochi.”
However, that summer idyll is tempered by Sochi’s location.
It borders the Northern Caucasus, a region whose locals are in conflict with Russian officials for independence, and a region Hornstra describes as “a black hole on Earth.”
“I think this whole region is so full of contrast, between these two conflict zones, and the most poor region in Russia, and these $50 billion games being organized in a subtropical seaside resort,” van Bruggen said. “Besides that, it’s also one of the most relevant places to visit. The conflict that is happening in the Caucasus … is between Islam and Christianity for instance, but also a battle for indepenedence of smaller nations. It’s more relevant to the entire world besides that the Games are being organized there.”