Complicating Colonialism

This story is part of our Complicating Colonialism series, which explores how unfinished conversations about the past play out in our daily lives and shape our collective future. Read more from this series produced in partnership with Stranger’s Guide Magazine.

The history of Russian occupation in Georgia dates back more than 200 years. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it won its independence but separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia refused to acknowledge the new Georgian state and went to war. In 2008 Russia sent the military into South Ossetia and Abkhazia to shore up control and today twenty percent of Georgia remains under Russian control. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s complex history with its eastern neighbor is deeply rooted in centuries of Russian colonialism and expansionism. In this photo essay, award-winning Polish photographer Justyna Mielnikiewicz documents the people of Ukraine, Georgia and Kazakhstan at times of upheaval—in the throes of protest, dissent, and strife, and as they try to hold on to their identity in the face of modern Russian imperialism.