Karina (23 years old) "Passers-by sometimes stare at me, some with incomprehension, many smile.And the children's reactions are priceless, they observe me in such a cute way, and smile, and sometimes whisper to their mothers, “I want such hair, too.” The only thing that guys might shout to me when I pass by is “hipster”, that's it. Well, at least that’s what I notice, maybe there is something else, but I do not focus on it".Karina loves her colored hair and the trips round her homeland of Dagestan which she goes on with her friends. And while travelling does not surprise anyone in the region, the colored hair often attracts attention. She says she is used to it because her parents have always supported her desire for self-expression. And this helps her to be who she is, and not to adapt to public opinion and stereotypes.
Timerlan (26 years old) "There is constantly some booing when I am outside, they can shout from their cars. Or they pass by and say something. But as a rule, they do not tell me anything offensive. After all,"hipster" is not an insult to me". Timerlan has recently moved to Makhachkala, and he is going to open a workshop to manufacture dishes and furniture. He has a very noticeable appearance, which often attracts attention, especially in Dagestan. But nevertheless,the circumstances do not make Timerlan feel uncomfortable, and he tries not to focus on them. According to him, his main priority is to learn to live comfortably in any conditions and to be himself everywhere. The disadvantages of living in Dagestan do not prevent him from loving his homeland and traditions.
Asya (20 years old) "I have to listen to sharp and offensive words aimed at me almost every day,it’s mentally exhausting. Going out often turns into a real torture." Asya is a designer. She was not born and raised in Dagestan, so moving here and adapting to the local mentality was difficult for her. Asya says that she is uncomfortable living in Dagestan, because people consider it their duty to tell you how you should look, and anything different from the generally accepted is perceived negatively.
Maria (20 years old) "Unfortunately, people have a lot of prejudices and I constantly face a contemptuous attitude towards myself in some public places like hospitals, shops, etc. Usually you can tell they are judging you just by the way they look at you. There are also remarks like "And how only your parents allowed that". Sometimes I talk to people who have said that, we always end up having a warm and light conversation. At such moments, I start to believe that society is gradually getting used to people like me.Maria is a tattoo artist, but she cannot reveal her profession to everyone, because many Dagestani people are negative about everything related to tattoos.She has to face negative remarks aimed at her, but most often she does not react to them and everything goes on peacefully. Maria thought of moving somewhere else to be free from all the restrictions the society poses on its members here. However, she loves her homeland very much, even though it gives her hard times every now and then.
Khizri (18 years old) "Despite the fact that I do not look somehow unconventional, that is, for example, I do not have piercings, tattoos or a "wrong" hair color, I have still been asked our classic ‘So are you a hipster, huh?’" Khizri is taking his bachelor’s degree in journalism. He writes poetry, prose, sometimes acts as a stand-up comedian. He says that it is difficult to fulfil your potential, especially in a creative industry, if you live in Dagestan. Even if you try to do something, there still will be only a small number of people who will know and support you. Most of the people choose to be skeptical and uncomprehending when it comes to the new, he says. But Khizri believes that despite facing non-acceptance and pressure, "we must go our own way".
Nika (19 years old) "If you live in Makhachkala, surely some shouts or remarks will follow you, but at the same time those who make them keep a distance of 2-3 meters from you, they don’t say it in your face. At times someone does come up to ask for your phone number, and when you refuse to give it, they will call you a hipster and leave, muttering something to themselves, or even worse: they won’t let you pass. Some will pull out the camera and start filming, while considering that they are true Caucasians and proud highlanders". Nika is a student and enjoys cosplay in her free time. She has a blog on Instagram, where she uploads photos of her looks. And quite often “well-wishers” write to her criticizing what she does. Nika has been doing karate since childhood, and can defend herself if necessary, but still she does not feel safe.
Zumrud (23 years old)" I hardly ever hear anything negative aimed at me, as my looks don’t stand out that much. I’ve received more criticism against my work." Zumrud used to weave dream catchers, but she had to give up her hobby because she was accused of being a "witch" and "charlatan". And even now, when she paints ordinary portraits, she has to deal with unwelcome remarks a la "drawing is haram according to Islam."
Egor (17 years old) "I’ve got used to some condemnation and misunderstanding on the part of some people. So life in Dagestan is quite acceptable for me, even in spite of all the negativity". Egor plays bass in a local rock band that he has recently formed along with his friends. Rock groups used to be tolerated in Dagestan but the siuation changed several years ago due to the strengthening of Islam. Several years ago, some bands' performances were disrupted due to threats. Now they have to perform only in a narrow circle, among friends. However, Egor says that he loves Dagestan and hopes that the locals will soon get used to the new.
Jamilya (22 years old) "People very often consider it their duty to come up to me and ask something about my appearance, to poke fun at me." It has been more than 10 years since Jamila moved to Dagestan, but she still does not feel at home in her homeland. She says that she experiences fear and stress when she goes outside because she faces prejudice toward her appearance, and it happens that conflict situations arise.
Radim (20 years old) "I used to have rather long hair, but because of the jokes of my relatives and the disapproving looks of others, things were on the verge of a fight. I had to have my hair cut: I want to live, afterall." Radim calls himself a "bookworm" because he spends most of his free time reading books. He dreams of writing a book, and he is already taking the first steps in this direction. He says that if you have a more modern outlook on life, then you better not talk about it in Dagestan: most of it is perceived as a danger to religion and traditional foundations. But art gives Radim some freedom to express his thoughts.
Dana (19 years old) “The bulk of all the negative remarks that I get is from my parents. They consider my taste in dress and overall appearance vulgar, and they think that I will be abused or even raped because of my looks. This is despite the fact that I do not wear extremely revealing clothes.Other people have never told me to my face that they do not like my appearance, but it shows even in sidelong glances." Dana is fond of cosplay, but she wears bright makeup and clothes in her daily life, too. Because of this, she often encounters judgmental looks on the street, which makes her feel insecure. Moreover, Dana has strict parents, and it adds to all the trouble of expressing herself. Therefore, she constantly has to fight for the right to look the way she wants.
Arina (18 years old) "Most often it’s passive aggressive behaviour that I face. Cases of open aggression are very rare (but they do happen, and they have greatly influenced the way I behave and think)They make jokes, ask strange questions which are clearly intended to offend me, gossip behind my back, criticize my appearance. In order not to encounter all of this, I limited my circle of friends and colleagues to a comfortable cocoon. But still, a couple of times a week I hear someone shouting "Hipster/ anime girl" at me as I walk past them”. Arina has a lot of hobbies, and she likes her appearance and interests to stand out in a crowd. Her parents mostly support her, which perhaps makes it easier for Arina to pay less attention to the negativity that she sometimes has to deal with. She says that life in Dagestan reminds her of a quest video game where you have to overcome obstacles, and every day you find new ways to act and do whatever you like.
Ali (25 years old) "I come across negative feedback from locals over and over again. Whenever I walk with a girl, shouts follow me, and guys often come up and start bugging us. Not so long ago, as I was standing at a bus stop, a guy sitting in a passing car threw something wet and dirty at me. The car was full of people, I didn’t know any of them". Ali has recently moved to Dagestan where, as he realized afterwards, some people might dislike those who have tattoos. The tattoos have frequently brought him into trouble with locals. Ali lived outside Dagestan for a long time, which makes it difficult or him to integrate into the local mentality and culture. He hopes that over time, people will be more easy-going about each other and stop trying to change those who do not look or act like them.
Alexandra (21 years old) "Unfortunately, I face negative attitudes almost every time I leave the house, and by my own standards I don't look 'provocative' to attract that much attention, but it still happens anyway."Alexandra loves wearing bright makeup on an everyday basis, and she often changes her looks. Such appearance inevitably attracts people’s attention in Dagestan. Alexandra says that over time she has learnt to ignore this, as it is not the public opinion that matters for her, but her own interests.
Saida (26 years old) "It’s primarily my relatives, close ones, who strongly disapprove of my appearance. It got to the point that they wanted me to drop my studies at the art school. They could berate me for colored hair and pierced ears. In this regard it is easier to fight with society than with your family. No matter what, you can just tell a stranger to piss off" Saida is an artist. She teaches painting and oversees the AniDag anime culture festival. She grew up in a traditional family, where every attempt to change something in her looks was perceived negatively. Because of that she has to fight for her point of view and interests all the time.