Tags / Cold War
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.