Duo documents Russians doing what it takes to survive economic uncertainty


Every spare ruble Tatiyana makes from working in the paper mill and selling fish goes toward a good school so her daughter can get a stable job and have a better future in Russia.

Stories like Tatiyana’s are being captured on film by BYU student Christine Armbruster from San Antonio and UVU student Tree Gore of Wilmington, Del.

[media-credit name=”Courtesy of Christine Armbruster and Tree Gore” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]
Christine Armbruster and Tree Gore attempt to hitchhike with signs saying, “To Kazan for free, please.” Gore and Armbruster are making a documentary of the lives of small-town Russians surviving during times of economic strife.
“I have always been interested in people and in their stories,” Armbruster said in an email. “It is what I like to focus my photography on.”


Armbruster and Gore are spending the summer capturing the fight for survival. This documentary follows people in remote cities in Russia and shows what people will do in times of economic hardships.

There are two types of typical days for Gore and Armbruster. In an email, Gore explained the two. The first type of day is spent sitting in an Internet cafe in front of a computer. They work on updating their blogs, archiving their video footage, sending out emails, editing photos and planning for their next adventure.

The second kind of day is much more adventurous. They start their day early in the morning by catching a bus or hitchhiking to their new destination. Then they walk around trying to meet people who are both willing to talk to them and have something to say. People show them their homes, towns, hobbies, families and life work. Somewhere in there, they find a place to sleep.

The documentary focuses on three specific towns in Russia. These towns have similar backgrounds but currently are in different stages of development. Jobs come and go, factories and business shut down, leaving people to figure out what to do when their support is gone. Because of the lack of government support and isolation of these towns, it is up to the people as either individuals or communities to make a new industry or come up with a way to make life livable.

“It’s interesting what people do and how they survive,” Armbruster said. “The things that they do in order to not only get by, but also to make better futures for their children.”

Armbruster’s journey to Russia was unexpected. Her friend Gore had been in Russia last year and became interested in small single-industry towns and began research on them. Gore needed a second person to help with the project. Armbruster got a position to work on a series of short films with the BYU alumni program called The More Good Foundation in Moscow. With money from the More Good Foundation, Armbruster went to Russia for two weeks, to assist Gore with the project.

“Russia has been wonderful,” Armbruster said. “It is the craziest place I have ever been, but it has also been one of the most fantastic places I have ever visited.”

Their project led them to remote villages, thousands of miles away from the familiar cities Moscow and St. Petersburg. In the towns they visit, people are surprised Americans would ever visit them. In Krasnouralsk, they were the first Americans that inhabitant Valentina, a woman in her 70s, had ever seen.

Gore hopes their film educates the people watching and leaves people filled with hope during hard economic times.

“I would like people watching the film to both learn some interesting bits about this huge world we live in and not come away feeling hopeless and depressed,” Gore said.

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