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These Soccer Fields In The Middle Of Nowhere Are Amazing Snapshots Of Life In Russia

Photographer Sergey Novikov is documenting amateur fields next to churches and military shipyards ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Last updated on July 3, 2018, at 1:19 p.m. ET

Posted on June 26, 2015, at 10:45 a.m. ET

With Russia set to host the next World Cup in 2018 — for now, at least — photographer Sergey Novikov is documenting the idiosyncratic soccer fields where Russia's amateurs play.

Totma, Vologda province, 2014.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Totma, Vologda province, 2014.

Novikov, 35, has traveled across central Russia for three years for the project, visiting picturesque fields next to churches in small towns and artificial pitches in towns closed to outsiders in Russia's far north.

Troitsk, Moscow, 2012.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Troitsk, Moscow, 2012.

Most of the stadiums Novikov photographs date back over 50 years to a time when few in Russia had television, and watching local soccer games was more popular.

Bologoe, Tver province, 2013.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Bologoe, Tver province, 2013.

The stadiums are integrated seamlessly into town life.

Lazarevskoe, Krasnodar region, 2014.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Lazarevskoe, Krasnodar region, 2014.

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It's often hard to make plans. Once, Novikov traveled from Moscow to Kirovsk, a town in Russia's far north, only to find that the game was cancelled to mourn local officials who had died in a helicopter crash.

Kirovsk, Murmansk province, 2014.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Kirovsk, Murmansk province, 2014.

Another time, Novikov was called on to play himself after one of the players fell ill.

Kovdor, Murmansk province, 2012.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Kovdor, Murmansk province, 2012.

Novikov plans to visit amateur teams in the Ural Mountains and Siberia to complete the project in time for the World Cup.

Tsivilsk, Chuvashia, 2014.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Tsivilsk, Chuvashia, 2014.

"Stadiums are especially important in provincial towns because they are often the only place that members of the local population can let off some steam," Novikov told the Moscow Times.

Moscow, 2013.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Moscow, 2013.

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"When everything is going badly at work, when you face chaos and corruption in your town, when your wife leaves you for another man then you have two options: sport or alcohol."

Monchegorsk, Murmansk province, 2012.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Monchegorsk, Murmansk province, 2012.

Here are some more of Novikov's tribute to those who chose sport:

Khelyulya, Karelia, 2013.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Khelyulya, Karelia, 2013.

Kurganinsk, Krasnodar province, 2014.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Kurganinsk, Krasnodar province, 2014.

Polyarny, Murmansk province, 2013.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Polyarny, Murmansk province, 2013.

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Valdai, Novgorod province, 2013.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Valdai, Novgorod province, 2013.

Gubkin, Belgorod province, 2013.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Gubkin, Belgorod province, 2013.

Snezhnogorsk, Murmansk province, 2012.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Snezhnogorsk, Murmansk province, 2012.

Fedino, Moscow province, 2013.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Fedino, Moscow province, 2013.

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Kuvshinovo, Tver province, 2012.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Kuvshinovo, Tver province, 2012.

Veliky Ustyug, Vologda province, 2014.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Veliky Ustyug, Vologda province, 2014.

Zapolyarny, Murmansk province, 2012.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Zapolyarny, Murmansk province, 2012.

Pryazha, Karelia, 2013.
Sergey Novikov / Via grassrootsrussia.com

Pryazha, Karelia, 2013.

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