Ural Stories

from Leonid Tishkov

Leonid grew up in a lakeshore village surrounded by the woods and mountains of the Urals. Steeped in folklore and rooted in the earth, the picturesque Nizhnie Sergi verges on the symbolic border with Asia. After almost drowning at age six, he acquired a fear of water and never learned to swim


Deepsea Divers

The figure of a deep sea diver has emerged as early as late 1970s. Deep sea divers, along with aviators, seamen and representatives of other, typically modern professions, had become heroes of the Soviet pop culture since 1920s.

By the 1970s, when the romantic halo around these supermen of the sea bed whiffed away, they gradually evolved into absurd and comical characters. They turn from caricature and parody characters into mythological creatures.
Their world becomes ever more involved, developing its own cosmogony and history.

Deepsea Divers 2 Cut

Deepsea Divers 1

It grows from within itself numerous contradictory stories, where layers of the Soviet adult culture or children’s folklore are mixed with rudiments of classical Russian archaic stories and a science fiction of explicitly surrealist kind.

Beyond their cartoonish appearance, they present a black and white mirror of our own life, where distorted reflections of our fears and fantasies embody our existential alienation and acute self-awareness.

“As Vishnu created the world in his sleep, I imagined my world of divers, creatures without faces, their hearts kept deep within diving suits, when I immersed myself in sleep, in the depths of subconscious, where underwater fish surrounded their loneliness with Christmas trees”.


Considered strange and unsociable, he engrossed himself in observing nature and devouring books. In the early seventies at the height of the Cold War, he moved to Moscow to study medicine. It was only a matter of time before he realized his poetic temperament was better suited for the arts



This autumn I went to the village of Uvarovka in the west of the Moscow Region, where I have a house, which I’d bought by a lucky chance there from the local old-timers. Some apple-trees were still alive in the orchard. Under one of them, the oldest and the most crooked but still overgrown with “Antonovka” apples, I found a rusted German helmet with a bullet hole. Huge, bright apples were scattered around everywhere filling the garden with their fragrance.


Apfelmensch 2

I gathered some apples into the helmet, brought them into the house and pour them onto the bed. There were so many apples I kept gathering them and placing them on the bedcover. Suddenly I noticed something lying on the bed. That was Apfelmensch. Perhaps a German soldier died under this apple tree during World War II and they buried him right there, in a shallow grave under the apple tree. The remains of his body have enriched the garden soil and thus he has been feeding the appletree and its apples for many years now. So each apple contained a particle of that man.

I gathered the apples into a basket, wrapping each one with dry moss and then waited till it was time to carry Apfelmensch to his homeland so that at least a small part of him, these tiny apple seeds return to his native soil where he had once been born as a human being.

Private Moon

Years later, his work, whether it is painting, sculpture, drawing, prints, writing, performance, or video, still bears the formative influence of his village experience and medical training


Private Moon

A man met the Moon and stayed with her for the rest of his life. In the upper world, in fact in the attic of his own house, he saw the Moon falling off from the sky. Once she was hiding from the Sun in a dark and damp tunnel. But the passing trains frightened her. Now she came to this man’s house. Having wrapped the Moon with warm blankets he treated her with autumn apples, gave her a cup of tea, and when she got well he took her in his boat across the dark river to the high bank overgrown with moon pine-trees.

In the Arctic 2

In lviv, Ukraine

He descended into the lower world dressed in the clothes of his deceased father and then returned from there lighting up his path with his personal Moon. Crossing the borderline between the two worlds across a narrow bridge, immersed in a dream and taking care of this heavenly creature, the man became a mythological being living in a real world as in a fairytale.

Miracles can happen in this realm: the moon comes down from the heavens, glistening polar bears walk on ice floats, white clouds bathe in the sea together with blue whales and delicate icebergs float in the sky. The snow there emits light and the melting glacier calls out to us, humans, whispering “I am still alive”.
Private Moon 2003 2

Private Moon


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