KANAVA is a long-durational art project dedicated to the memory of the Soviet Gulag (ГУЛАГ) - the forced-labour camp system which operated from 1929 to 1953. The project was named after the White Sea-Baltic canal in northern Karelia. The Finnish word Kanava highlights the connection between the Gulag system and the history of Finland. Nowadays It is commonly known that Finns comprised of a large percentage of Gulag victims in Karelia.

Over the duration of this project, SASHAPASHA (Sasha Rotts and Pavel Rotts) has been working in different places around Russia researching the history and impact of the Gulag. 

The construction of the canal was the first project of the Soviet penal labour system, constructed under Stalin and proclaimed as a tool for “re-forging” the inmates into ‘normal’ Soviet citizens. In fact, the project was a way to accelerate industrialization with a small outlay, while simultaneously eliminating the opposition. Following the spread of the gulag system over the Eurasian continent SASHAPASHA has travelled through different post-soviet territories from Karelia, all the way to Vladivostok.

Kanava 16 Installation based on found objects during the trip to the White Sea-Baltic Canal in 2016
Drumming Head Drum into your head! Sound performance
Wild Swans The swan was a sacred bird in the beliefs of the northern Karelians. Now, swans are replaced by rubber phantoms.
Black Swan Tires became a fuel for revolution. Filling the courtyards and streets, they channel this energy through peaceful means, making folk sculptures.
Go 围棋 Embroidery in the Gulag was a means of communication between the “zone” and freedom. Sea maps are embroidered on the caps representing sea routes of the “Gulag Archipelago”.
Penal Labour The project's main topic is the displacement of the Ingrian population during and after WWII.
Belomorkanal museum The Domestic Belomor Canal Museum draws together reality and fiction, private memories and official history, found objects and local souvenirs. A ball of red thread Ariadne traces in this labyrinth of meanings.
Karelian navy Traditional Karelian embroidery on the navy officer cap
The Wooden Language In many languages, the etymology of the verb “to hear” links us to the verb “to obey”.
Potato Island The potato, from Holland, was introduced to Russia by Peter the Great in the 17th century and then became a traditional Russian food. Russia suffered extreme starvation during WWII, and bread was made containing wooden sawdust.
Peat and Lace A fire map, The Plan for Great Works, a map of peat deposits and of Gulags in the Nizhny Novgorod Region. Juxtaposed against each other, these form a single embroidered lace banner.
Letters to the Past To address the past is an attempt to put the accelerating machine of progress on pause, to slow down and untangle.
Uncle Joe Performance is based on records found during the trip to Belomorkanal in a big red package with a Joseph Stalin's portrait on the cover.