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Generation Z x Ockam russia youth diversity
Generation Z x OckamPhotography Nick Gavrilov, Styling Anatoliy Karnaukhov

This new fashion project celebrates Russia’s diverse young faces

Moscow-based collective Generation Z and fashion label Ockam join forces to celebrate the country’s often underestimated multiculturalism

Based in Moscow, the Generation Z collective is one of the key voices representing Russia’s open-minded, progressive youth. Working across fashion, music, and photography, they have tackled such crucial issues as LGBTQIA+ rights, underground rave movements, and mental health – continually proving that Russia’s upcoming generation stands for something far different than their conservative government dictates. 

Now, as part of a new collaborative project with rising fashion label Ockam, Generation Z is exploring Russia's underrepresented multiculturalism – and trying to give a platform to the country’s diverse young faces. 

Globally, Russia is often perceived as a ‘white’ country, which, if you look a little closer, couldn’t be further from the truth. From Moscow to the Far East, Russia is home to numerous indiginous ethnicities and immigrant communities. Cultural exchange and immigration from India, China, Korea, and African and Caribbean post-colonial states were part of the Soviet history; and millions of people have mixed heritage from countries which used to be former Soviet states. In metropolitan cities like Moscow, diversity is apparent – but very far from being celebrated. Casual and habitual racism is still ingrained in many Russians and determines the mainstream idea of what a Russian person should look like. Generation Z is set to change that. 

“We had a very problematic question in our minds – how does it affect your mental health being a person of a different culture or race in Russia? Because we all know that tolerance in our country is something very rare, like the situation with the LGBTQ+ community,” says creative director Roman Gunt, who came up with a concept of the project. “In Russia, we were raised in a very racist and nationalistic environment. People of different races and nations here are either invisible or have to face discrimination and hate crimes. That’s why the Generation Z team decided to make a photo project dedicated to multicultural Russia, to show all the diversity. Today people all over the world are fighting against racism, and we wanted to make a statement from Russia’s young creative community.”

Working with fellow Generation Z members photographer Nick Gavrilov and producer Diana Spit, Gunt and the group cast the shoot’s models from their friendship groups and Moscow’s creative community – with their individual stories representing a mere fraction of Russia’s diversity.

Dee Agostinho is a musician, Ukrainian by nationality but with roots from Angola. Diana Borisova works in the music industry – she previously identified as Yakut, but more recently found out that she also belongs to Evenki, indigenous people of Eastern Siberia. Model Maga is from Dagestan, Avar by nationality. Musician David is Korean, Armenian, Russian, and Jewish. Amina has Arabic and Tatar roots, and Yosef Minor is a musician with Mongolian roots,” explains photographer Nick Gavrilov.  

For most of the creatives in front of the lens, taking part meant both being seen and making the representation of young Russia a bit more truthful, welcoming, and relevant. "I loved the idea of this project because it's very close to home. When I worked as a tourist guide, foreigners always used to be very surprised that I belong to indigenous people of Russia. Sometimes I think that Russians themselves are not aware that their country is truly multiethnic. But I do believe that the young generation understands that nationalism and discrimination have to end," says Diana Borisova.

Shot on medium format film, the series is a cinematic journey through the gritty yet incredibly authentic corners of Moscow, rich with traces of different cultures. “We chose locations to suit each character in the shoot. It was very interesting to watch them at the old USSR-style market, to watch how they interact with the people who work there. This is the place where people of different nationalities are gathered, all open, cheerful, and ready to help,” says Diana Spit. “I think it truly shows that Russia is a multinational country, and it is not so important where you came from, but what kind of person you are and what you are doing.”