Inshallah in the Cursed Forest

Ramazan Magomedov (47), father of eleven children is a hunter and former policeman. He left the force in 2012, after almost 20 years service, following injury in an operation against the killers of four local hunters in the Tsunintsky forest.


The Republic of Dagestan, in the North Caucasus, is part of the Russian Federation and ethnically extremely diverse. More than 80 percent of the populace practices Islam, though belonging to different sects within the faith. Despite the reduction of large-scale military operations 10 years ago in neighboring Chechnya, Dagestan is the scene of ongoing insurgency, outbreaks of separatism and internal conflict between Islamic groups. Both the Dagestan and Russian governments put substantial resources into counter-insurgency operations, but the violence continues. Official corruption, together with growing support for Islamists among locals, are said to be major reasons for this.

I travelled to Tsuntinsky, a remote district of Dagestan, where insurgent groups live and train in the forest, receiving support from relatives and sympathizers. Here, in 2011, four local hunters were tortured and then murdered by insurgents. For me, the story of Ramazan Magomedov encapsulated the tragedy of the region. A former policeman, he had relatives both among the murdered hunters and the killers, had himself been injured in the operation against the insurgents, and after he recovered he began to wage a personal war against the men hiding in the forest.

Maria Turchenkova
Maria Turchenkova (26) is a freelance documentary photographer based in Moscow. After five years of radio journalism, Maria took up photography in 2009 and began her career by documenting political issues in Moscow, and covering stories about opposition activists.  Since 2011, her attention has focused primarily on the North Caucasus. She concentrates on political and social issues, covering daily news and working on her own documentary projects, in both still photography and multimedia.