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Then and Now: Postcards from the Sovi...
Moscow, Russia
By Steve Weinberg
16 Apr 2015

"Then and Now: Postcards from the Soviet Union" addresses the end of the Cold War and current resurgence of Russian geopolitical assertion in Ukraine and elsewhere. This series of historical photographs juxtaposes idealized, Soviet era postcards and visuals with real world photographs shot over the course of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ensuing post-Soviet era. This juxtaposition is meant to demonstrate the links and the contrasts between national narratives propagated by the Soviet system and how those narratives have been affected by or manifested in contemporary reality.


Shot over the last 26 years in Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Poland, these unique photos offer an intimate historical perspective of Soviet and Eastern European geopolitics as the region takes on new forms and conflicts in Ukraine and elsewhere. 

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Postcards from the Soviet Union
Moscow, Russia
By Steve Weinberg
16 Apr 2015

Upper: Hello from the Exhibition”; mid-1950s postcard, Exhibition of National Economic Achievements, Soviet era Moscow.

Lower: Opened to private enterprise in 1992, the Exhibition of National Economic Achievements building complex rapidly transformed into a place of rampant uncontrolled commercialism amidst its former Soviet pomp. Moscow, Russia.

Image Correlation: These series of buildings have been utilized both during the communist era and during the more recent introduction of a Western commercial market after the end of the Soviet period. The symbology inherent in the sculptures have become representative hallmarks for the iconic Soviet period of Socialist realism, introduced by Stalin in 1934 then adapted by allied Communist parties worldwide.

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Postcards from the Soviet Union
Moscow, Russia
By Steve Weinberg
16 Apr 2015

Upper: Central Moscow, Kremlin foreground; 1960s impression

Lower: Moscow Red Square at night, 2005.

Image Correlation: More of a romantic notion regarding one of the major cities of the world, the iconic buildings of Red Square in Moscow implies a sense of duration through the centuries as political eras fluctuate more readily across recent decades.

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Postcards from the Soviet Union
Moscow, Russia
By Steve Weinberg
16 Apr 2015

Upper: Postcard: In memory of WWII.

Lower: Statue: In memory of WWII. Warsaw, Poland, 1992.

Image Correlation: These two photos resemble a counterpoint of recent history. A scarce Soviet postcard, released 10 years after WWII depicts a melancholic image of a distant, but ongoing battle, while a permanent abstract soldier statue in the Praga district of Warsaw, Poland offers a stern and dark reminder of history.

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Postcards from the Soviet Union
Moscow, Russia
By Steve Weinberg
16 Apr 2015

Upper: Soviet Great Patriotic War Congratulations to Victory; "From Moscow to Berlin,1945 To Victory Day!"

Lower: Tribute to executed escapees from former East Germany during Berlin Wall 15 year Anniversary; Berlin, Germany, 2004

Image Correlation: One side's victory is another's oppression.

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Postcards from the Soviet Union
Moscow, Russia
By Steve Weinberg
16 Apr 2015

Upper: Forward to Communism” with the communist party program in hand, Moscow, Casualty of capitalism.

Lower: A Soviet era pensioner struggles during the economic shock period of the 1990s with the abrupt introduction of Western consumerism overtaking communist central planning of the prior 70 years. The McDonalds sign reads " Taste of the Season"; Moscow, 1995.

Image Correlation: Two distinct economic systems prevailing in the same exact location, though years apart. This dichotomy amplified a social collision for certain segments of the population, particularly in the years immediately after the collapse of the Soviet system. As there was no guidebook provided for people accustomed to government subsidies, having to suddenly rely on individual economic incentive for many became overwhelming.

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Postcards from the Soviet Union
Moscow, Russia
By Steve Weinberg
16 Apr 2015

Upper: Soviet MiG-15, “The Jet that Shocked the West” 1950

Lower: Saakashvili Era Military Parade in Tbilisi, Georgia. During his 7 year rule (2004-2011), the pro-Western president showcased Georgia as the fastest growing post-Soviet democracy. Tbilisi, Georgia, 2007.

Image Correlation: The use of military might by both Eastern and Western oriented leaderships to project their ideological and political formidability. Despite existing in different eras, and under different ideological and political circumstances, the essential public relations strategy remains the same between the Soviet Union and capitalist independent Georgia.

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Postcards from the Soviet Union
Moscow, Russia
By Steve Weinberg
16 Apr 2015

Upper: Boys fantasizing about their future war stories, 1961.

Lower: A young boy’s military dreams; Tbilisi, Georgia, 2007.

For the young male, the fantasy for the glory days of war without yet having had the experience appears in several cultures worldwide. Here it is represented with Soviet era illustrations and through the eyes of a child at a Georgian military parade.

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Postcards from the Soviet Union
Moscow, Russia
By Steve Weinberg
16 Apr 2015

Upper: Glory to the Soviet Armed Forces; Moscow, 1968

Lower: All leaders become future history; the Putin era is not over; Tbilisi, Georgia, 2013.

Image Correlation: How Russian history from the early 21st century will be perceived in the distant future. Putin's administration is said to be heavily influenced by the Soviet past. The question then remains, what influence will Putin have on future Russian leaderships?

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Postcards from the Soviet Union
Moscow, Russia
By Steve Weinberg
16 Apr 2015

Late Soviet period, Gorbachev political pin reads-"Perestroika, Glasnost"; or "restructuring and "public openness", 1988.

Russian military elite attending banquet in the Georgian breakaway republic of Abkhazia. Gagra, Abkhazia, 2005.

Image Correlation: Symbols from the late Soviet period above, coincide with a seeming perpetuation of the Soviet era in the breakaway region of Abkhazia, on the northwest coast of Georgia years later. Abkhazia was the second territory annexed by Russia after the 2008 war and has cultivated close ties against the rancor of the Georgian authorities.

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Postcards from the Soviet Union
Moscow, Russia
By Steve Weinberg
16 Apr 2015

Upper: 50 years of the USSR Armed Forces, 1967

Lower: Former Russian base until 2001; Vasiani, Georgia, 2003.

Image Correlation: An extended generation of prevailing missile diplomacy between East and West is illustrated through a Soviet period magazine and 1960s postcard. While below, remnants from the Cold War remained until the withdrawal of Russian bases from Georgia started in 2005.

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Postcards from the Soviet Union
Moscow, Russia
By Steve Weinberg
16 Apr 2015

Upper: End of WWII 1945, Victory Day (Soviet Perspective).

Lower: Protesters gather in front of Stalin's birthplace. Georgian signage reads "Down with capitalism, give factories to working people, give jobs"; Gori, Georgia, 2011.

Image Correlation: A postcard and black & white photo celebrating Stalin provides a perspective regarding the Soviet WWII victory, while the image below shows present day demonstration by protesters in front of his boyhood home; now a museum.

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Postcards from the Soviet Union
Moscow, Russia
By Steve Weinberg
16 Apr 2015

Upper: Ukraine, October Glory (1917 Revolution) – 1963

Lower: Citizen registering to vote in Ukraine with passport document. May ,2014.

Image Correlation: The patriotism once encouraged by the Soviet system reemerges in the form patriotism for one's independent, former-Soviet state. The pictured elections followed months of protest and upheaval in Ukraine, which led to the ousting of a pro-Moscow leadership and the eventually election of a pro-Western administration opposed to Moscow.

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Postcards from the Soviet Union
Moscow, Russia
By Steve Weinberg
16 Apr 2015

Upper: Postcard-Glory Soviet Armed Forces, 1965, document-the Commemorative Medal-50 years Liberation of Ukraine; Crimea Map; 1955.

Soviet Era Tribute; Samegrelo, Georgia, 2000

Image Correlation: Elements of the current Ukraine conflict have historic attributes stemming from decades earlier, as the justification for each side’s present directives find their justification in different interpretations of a shared history. The now gone Soviet era mural (lower) found in a remote region of Georgia attests to the permeation that the former empire once attained. The historic precedent, which can remain invisible, runs deep in the collective psyche and becomes the fulcrum for determining which alliance a region moves towards; sustaining relations with Russia or moving towards the Western driven market.

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It's All in Lebanon (French)
Beirut
By Charaf
25 Nov 2014

2011
Beirut, Lebanon

Since the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1990, Lebanon has become a hot bed of both entertainment and news media production in the Arab world. Amongst the melee of risque Arabic music videos and luxury television commercials, the Shia political movement Hezbollah has proved to be one of the most media savvy institutions in the country, using film, television, music, and masterful political stagecraft to further its image in the minds of Lebanese and the international community. From the flashy music videos of Haifa Wehbe to the resistance videos of Hezbollah, this film follows the tumultuous post-civil war history of Lebanon through its fertile media industry.

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Shibuya: An Icon of Japanese Modernity
Tokyo
By Michael Penn
27 Sep 2014

Shibuya Station and its surrounding neighbourhoods is undoubtedly one of the most famous areas in Tokyo, known especially as a centre for fashion and youth culture. The crowds traversing Shibuya Crossing, right in front of the train station, is an iconic image of modern Japan, often used to represent the nation’s transformation from the ashes of defeat in 1945 to the economic superpower of the 1980s.

Indeed, you can find all kinds of people here in Shibuya. Equally well known is the statue of the loyal dog Hachiko, who waited in vain for his dead master for many years at this very spot, tugging at the heartstrings of a nation. Nowadays, the area around the statue is Japan’s most appropriate location to await ones friends before going shopping or eating or whatever in Shibuya’s extensive commercial district.

While there are very few parts of Japan that are active 24 hours a day, Shibuya Crossing comes pretty close. As impressive as it is by day, the night view can be even more spectacular. At different seasons and at different times, it is a district of change. Even many of the shops along its streets go out business, face renewal, or introduce the completely original.

Center Gai is at the heart of the shopping district, and is thankfully a pedestrian zone. This a place where people — mostly young people — buy clothes, jewelry, or else go for entertainment or a bite to eat. Here it runs from highbrow to lowbrow… there’s just no telling what you might discover.

Nearby is Supein Zaka, which is supposedly similar in appearance to a traditional Spanish street.

Behind the trendy Shibuya Ichi Maru Kyu shopping complex is a zone that probably could exist in few places other than Japan. This is Love Hotel Hill where couples go for rooms available for two or three hour periods. There is not much of a “rest” happening in these hotel rooms.

Although the word “Shibuya” is most closely associated with the Shibuya Station area and its surrounding commercial district, it is also part of a larger Shibuya City, which is one of the 23 special wards of Tokyo, making up the core of this megacity. Shibuya City has a resident population of over 210,000 people, and its own city government and its own flag. Harajuku, Yoyogi, Ebisu, and Hiroo are neighbourhoods well known in their own right that also belong to Shibuya City. On its northern border, Shibuya City runs right up to Shinjuku Station, meaning that such a major shopping complexes as Takashimaya Times Square is actually part of Shibuya City, not Shinjuku City as one might naturally assume.

But be that as it may, for most visitors to Japan — as for most Japanese themselves — Shibuya is that youthful, ever-changing zone where the crowds spill out at the change of a signal and where the faithful dog Hachiko watches over his waiting friends.

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Consumerism in Iran
Tehran, Iran
By Ruom
10 Jul 2014

Iran has seen a rise in the popularity of Western-style shopping and consumerism. Despite the sanctions imposed on them, the country’s economy continues to grow.

In the last few months we have witnessed improved relations between Iran and the West, while the upcoming negotiations for the lifting of the sanctions could pave the way for even more changes in the country and consequently also within the region.

Shopping has became a near obsessive ritual for young people, and especially women, who have now turned to buying beauty products and high-end western brands to fill the void of entertainment options and to “rebel“ against the array of restrictions they are subjected to.

During his visit to Cuba in 2012, former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said “thankfully we are already witnessing that the capitalist system is in decay, on various stages it has come to a dead end — politically, economically and culturally.”

But the changes that have been taking place in Iran in the last few years seem to contradict this.

Despite slow mobile Internet connections, high prices for imported (most of the time smuggled) technological products and the constant governmental censorship of the media, Iranians are frantically buying smartphones, tablets and flat screen TVs.

Even if traditional Grand bazaars continue to be the favourite places to shop for regular Iranians they now face competition from huge shopping malls, which were erected in the outskirts of major cities across the country. And these offer western-style hypermarkets, international brands and colourful gaming arcades to list just a few temptations.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
30 Jun 2014

June 29, 2014
Shiraz, Iran

Mannequins in traditional Islamic dress are seen lined up in a local mall.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
29 Jun 2014

June 29, 2014
Shiraz, Iran

Locals in an electronics shop which is selling high-end flat screen television sets.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
29 Jun 2014

June 29, 2014
Shiraz, Iran

Children play at Iran Land, an amusement park built inside the Persian Gulf Complex, a large shopping mall located in the outskirts of Shiraz.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
29 Jun 2014

June 29, 2014 S
Shiraz, Iran

A woman shops at Hyperstar, Irans first international-style hypermarket, built inside the Persian Gulf Complex, a huge mall in the outskirts of Shiraz. Hyperstar plans to open 15 branches by 2015 in 5 different cities.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
28 Jun 2014

June 28, 2014
Shiraz, Iran

Women are seen withdrawing money at a local ATM machine. Due to sanctions against Iran, international bank cards are not recognized.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
26 Jun 2014

June 26, 2014
Shiraz, Iran

Customers inside a dress shop.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
25 Jun 2014

June 25, 2014
Shiraz, Iran

A man plays an video game in the arcade section of a mall.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
23 Jun 2014

June 23, 2014
Shiraz, Iran

Cars are seen in a parking lot of Shiraz. Due to the international sanctions, importation of foreign cars is expensive and many Iranians opt to buy locally produced cars.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
22 Jun 2014

June 22, 2014
Yazd, Iran

Local women shop at the local Grand Bazaar. Despite the increasing number of malls that have opened around the country, many Iranians still prefer to shop in traditional bazaars.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
21 Jun 2014

June 21, 2014
Yazd, Iran

A young girl walks in the streets of Yazd. Iranian women are increasingly reluctant to comply with government-imposed traditional dress codes and many have started to go around the prohibitions, wearing western-style hijabs made of fashionable fabrics.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
19 Jun 2014

June 19, 2014
Isfahan, Iran

A portrait of Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei and Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini is displayed on a wall of the Isfahan City Center Mall, one of the biggest in the country.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
19 Jun 2014

June 19, 2014
Isfahan, Iran

Customers at the "Kentucky House" one of the fast food restaurant built inside the Isfahan City Center Mall, one of the biggest in the country.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
19 Jun 2014

June 19, 2014
Isfahan, Iran

People shopping at the Isfahan City Center Mall, one of the biggest in the country.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
19 Jun 2014

June 19, 2014
Isfahan, Iran

Iranian youths walk in front of a recently opened unofficial Apple reseller.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
19 Jun 2014

June 19, 2014
Isfahan, Iran

A woman shops in an appliance center inside the Isfahan City Center Mall, one of the biggest in the country.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
18 Jun 2014

June 18, 2014
Isfahan, Iran

A young boy looks through a shop window.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
18 Jun 2014

June 18, 2014
Isfahan, Iran

Two girls check Facebook on a smartphone. Despite slow mobile internet connections, Iran has seen a considerable increase of consumers purchasing smartphones.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
18 Jun 2014

June 18, 2014
Isfahan, Iran

Traditional Islamic black chadors are sold at the local Bazaar. Iranian women are increasingly reluctant to comply with government-imposed traditional dress codes and many have started to go around the prohibitions, wearing western-style hijabs, made of fashionable fabrics.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
12 Jun 2014

June 12, 2014
Tehran, Iran

A young girl drinks lemonade during the birthday celebration for of Imam Mahdi in a neighborhood of Tehran.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
12 Jun 2014

June 12, 2014
Tehran, Iran

A car is sold in a small show room of the capital. Due to the international sanctions, importation of foreign cars is expensive and many Iranians opt to buy locally produced cars.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
12 Jun 2014

June 12, 2014
Tehran, Iran

Young women dress with traditional Islamic black chador in a street of the capital Tehran.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
12 Jun 2014

June 12, 2014
Tehran, Iran

Two young girls walk the streets of Tehran. Iranian women are increasingly reluctant to comply with government-imposed traditional dress codes. Many have started to go around the prohibitions, wearing western-style hijabs, made of fashionable fabrics.

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Consumerism in Iran
Iran
By Ruom
11 Jun 2014

June 11, 2014
Qom, Iran

Two young pilgrims walk in front of a mosque in Qom, the second holiest city in Iran. The girl on the left is seeing wearing a patch, after having plastic surgery on her nose. Iran has the world's highest nose surgery rate.