Yellow Prince is based on research into the intersection of imperial ideologies, hunger politics, and the economy of violence in non-linear history. It traces the spiral course of Ukrainian history across its three tragic chapters — the genocide of Crimean Tatars, Holodomor, and the forced labour of repressed peasants from Central Asia in the South of the country. These struggles are echoing today louder than ever before, while russian fascist ideologies and scale of terror are rapidly reaching their zenith. The colonial imperative is to surrender or be eliminated.
However, the stronger the empire dictates ethnic violence the bigger grows resistance. Remembrance is a tool of resistance. We pick up the pieces of fractured and scattered narratives from the past, put them together and see the pattern perfectly matching with politics pursued by russia today.
To grow cotton, an essential component of gunpowder production and a strategic raw material for the Red Army, the Soviet authorities relocated 20,000 families from Central Asia to Ukraine, climatically unsuitable for this crop. To increase the amount of raw cotton Soviet leadership built irrigation canals in Central Asia and southern Ukraine. The Dnipro and Amu Darya rivers turned into huge reservoirs for the irrigation of cotton plantations. For Central Asia, this initiative ended in an environmental disaster — the disappearance of the Aral Sea. In Ukraine, a unique natural area called Velykyi Luh was was annihilated. Today, men from Central Asia working in russia are being increasingly recruited into the military as Moscow struggles to replenish its depleted armed forces. Just a month after “Yellow Prince” was shown for the first time, russian troops blew up the Kakhovka HPP dam committing the largest act of ecocide amidst their full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
In our work, we examine cotton plantation projects of the Soviet Union, the disappearance of the legendary Crimean variety — Kozu-bash apple, and grain production in Ukraine to illustrate the recursivity of imperial violence. Using imagination as a tool of resistance we try to anticipate future agrarian commons beyond the binaries of neoliberal extractivism and totalitarian Soviet project disguised as socialism.