Rob Hornstra

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Pitsunda, Abkhazia, 2009 - Pitsunda is a resort town in Gagra district of Abkhazia. It is situated on the shore of the Black Sea 25 km south from Gagra. In October 1964 Nikita Khrushchev was vacationing in Pitsunda when he was deposed from power. There are many hotels for Russian tourists, who frequent the area in summertime.

Sukhum, Abkhazia, 2010 - Sea terminal (for ferries) in the center of Sukhum. On the left side cafeˆ Apra.

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, 2010 - Signs beside the road from Sochi to to Krasnaya Polyana. Although the signs are intended for advertising, the greater part is still covered with the logo of Sochi 2014. It seems that companies invest less than expected.

Krasny Vostok, Russia, 2009 - In the evening the cows return from grazing. The former state farm has been re-established under the name Agrofarm. The workers now have a small share in the profits, but otherwise little has changed.

Krasny Vostok, Russia, 2009 - Aslan (9), Diana (12) en Shamil (6) playing at entrance of local administration.

Krasny Vostok, Russia, 2010 - After Milana has completed the obligatory Saturday chores at school no. 1, she gets ready for the tea dance. The school and cultural centre are the village's focal points. This is where concerts and discos are organised.

Krasny Vostok, Russia, 2010 - Head of a lamb which was thrown on one of the sheds near the house of Stella and Georgi.

Tkuarchal, Abkhazia, 2010 - Ainar (7) in his class in Tkuarchal. He wants to become the president of Abkhazia.

Abkhazian police man and peace keeper Eric Amichba (33) in Azhara, 2009 - In the shadow of the war between Georgia and Russia in August 2008, a small war is still playing out. With Russian support Abkhazia captured the officially demilitarised Kodori Valley, a remote mountainous region on the border of Abkhazia and Georgia. Since then, Georgia has attracted another 2,000 refugees. As a notable exception, Abkhazia allows journalists to visit the region.

Battle in the Kodori Gorge, Abkhazia, 2009 - Brothers Zashrikwa (17) and Edrese (14) pose proudly with a Kalashnikov on the sofa in their aunt and uncle's house. They live in the Kodori Valley, a remote mountainous region on the border between Abkhazia and Georgia. In August 2008, Abkhazia gained control of the officially demilitarised Kodori Valley. The valley's 2,000 Georgian inhabitants fled over the border. A few families refused to be driven out: "We are mountain people. Borders don't mean very much to us. But if I had to choose between a Georgian and an Abkhazian passport, I would choose a Georgian one."

Argayash, Russia, 2003 - Portrait of war veteran Sergey Ivanovich in the garden near his house in the village Argayash.

Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003 - Portrait of a war veteran during celebration day in memory of the victory of the Great Patriotic War (1941 - 1945).

Muslumovo, Russia, 2003 - Portrait of war veteran Nikolay Andreyevich Semilitov (88) on his bed in his house in the nuclear contaminated village Muslumovo.

Dranda, Abkhazia, 2010 - Director of Dranda, the only prison of Abkhazia.

Tbilisi, Georgia, 2010 - Altar of Mediko Zarandiya (56) in a refugee kommunalka on the outskirts of Tbilisi. A kommunalka is an apartment building in which dwellers share facilities like toilet and kitchen. Until the early nineties this building was used as student housing. After the Georgian - Abkhazian war in 92-93 the building was occupied by Georgian refugees from Abkhazia and this situation didn't change.

Shamgona, Georgia, 2010 - A blue painted wooden kindergarten has been used as a shelter for refugees. In the early 1990s around 250,000 ethnic Georgians fled Abkhazia. They were housed in student flats, hotels and schools across Georgia, with the promise that they would soon be able to return to their homeland.

Krasny Vostok, Russia, 2010 - Veronika (22) and Viktorya (24) are visiting their parents in Krasny Vostok for the weekend. They used to share their bedroom here, but now they have an apartment together in the regional capital Pyatigorsk, where they both work. They are looking for a good man with money, who will give them the freedom to continue working.

Sukhumi, Abkhazia, 2007 - Sergei Vasilyevich Bagapsh (born March 4, 1949, Sukhumi) is the president of the unrecognized de facto independent Republic of Abkhazia, which is recognized internationally as de jure part of Georgia. A former Prime Minister from 1997 to 1999, he was elected president in 2005.

Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003 - Portrait of Alexandra Alexeyevna Artamonova in the museum of the tank/tractor factory in Chelyabinsk. During the Second World War Chelyabinsk accomodated the largest tank factory in the world. Because the men in those years were all sent to the front line to fight, manufacturing was taken over by women. Alexandra Artamonova was one of those women. After the war the factory was partly transformed into a tractor plant and Aleksandra Artamonova kept on working there. Although she could have retired after 50 years of service she prefered to keep working as she loved her work so much. The factory was her life. After sixty years of faithful service she finally retired, but she misses the time she was employed there.

The coastal strip on the Black Sea around the subtropical resort of Sochi (Russia) has for decades been famous for its sanatoria. During the Soviet era, millions of workers were sent to these sanatoria annually to revive their spirits and strengthen their bodies. Today, the sanatoria are still fully booked year round mostly with elderly or disabled Russians.

The coastal strip on the Black Sea around the subtropical resort of Sochi (Russia) has for decades been famous for its sanatoria. In the run-up to the Olympic Winter Games in 2014, almost all the sanatoria will be converted into luxury hotels. There is no place for sentimentality when it comes to the past. Sanatorium is an ode to these Soviet strongholds, revealing a deep-seated love for spas that is firmly embedded in the Russian soul.

Chelyabinsk, Rusland, 2003 - Elfrem and Sveta near a lake in Chelyabinsk, close to the Kurchatov monument, a place where alternative people gather in Chelyabinsk.


In 2014, the Olympic Games will take place in Sochi, Russia. Never before have the Olympic Games been held in a region that contrasts more strongly with the glamour of the Games than Sochi. Just 20 kilometres away is the conflict zone Abkhazia. To the east the Caucasus Mountains stretch into obscure and impoverished breakaway republics such as Cherkessia, North Ossetia and Chechnya. On the coast old Soviet sanatoria stand shoulder to shoulder with the most expensive hotels and clubs of the Russian Riviera.

Between now and 2014 the area around Sochi will change beyond recognition. The extreme makeover is already underway; refugee flats and poverty-stricken resorts are disappearing at high speed from the partly fashionable, partly impoverished seaside resort of Sochi. Thousands of labourers from across Russia and abroad live in prefab accommodation in order to have the stadiums, hotels and modern infrastructure finished on time. Helicopters fly backwards and forwards with building materials. The economic crisis is glossed over as much as possible.

Photographer Rob Hornstra and writer/filmmaker Arnold van Bruggen plan to document the changes in the area around Sochi over the coming five years. The Sochi Project is a dynamic mix of documentary photography, film and reportage about a world in flux; a world full of different realities within a small but extraordinary geographic area.


ROB HORNSTRA is a documentary photographer. Since he graduated he has worked predominantly on long-term projects, both at home and on the other side of the world. His work is characterised by a stylised rawness, with a large dose of intrinsic engagement. He has published five books on his own (Empty Land Promised Land Forbidden Land, On the Other Side of the Mountains, 101 Billionaires, Roots of the Rúntur, Communism & Cowgirls) which, despite increasing print runs, sell out even faster. He has been commissioned by international magazines to produce documentary series. He has also taken part in numerous (solo) exhibitions in the Netherlands and abroad, in addition to his own work as a documentary maker.  Rob is based in the Netherlands and is represented by the INSTITUTE for Artist Management.

To find out more about Rob’s work visit The Sochi Project and his website.