Hanne Van Assche is a Belgian photographer, recently graduated from Kask/ School of Arts in Ghent.
Yakutia is Russia’s treasury. According to a Siberian legend, God scattered a bag full of treasures over this vast area. Under the layer of permafrost there are enormous reserves of coal, gas, gold and diamonds. Hanne spent several months in the mining town of Udachny, on the edge of a gigantic diamond mine.
Soviet geologists discovered Yakutia’s first rough diamond in 1949. The reserves were so great that the site was promptly named “Udachny”, which means “happy” or “successful” in English. The Soviet Union exported these diamonds to all corners of the world, all the way to Antwerp.
In the 1950s, more and more workers from Russia and other Soviet states moved to the mine. The settlement quickly expanded into a full-fledged city, thousands of miles from civilisation in a far-flung corner of Eastern Russia. Udachny became a monotown: a city whose existence rests entirely on a gigantic diamond crater.
Today the mining town has about 12,000 inhabitants. Hanne zooms in on them: the faces behind the precious diamond. In Udachny / Lucky the viewer is introduced to proud citizens and contrasting landscapes. This project shows how the hospitality of this colourful community softens the harsh climate of a frozen and isolated world.
But what if the mine is exhausted? Russian diamond giant Alrosa, which manages the mine, expects Udachny to remain in operation for at least another 25 years.
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