Tags / Postcards
"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: 1949 Soviet rally; 1962 postcard, “With Holiday Congratulations Comrade!”
Lower: World War Two veterans commemorate Victory Day inTbilisi, Georgia, 9 May 2011.
Image Correlation: Passing the memory of victory in the Great Patriotic War across generations. Pride and valor have compelled millions to revere their national identities through the memorialization of the Great Patriotic war. Despite the fact that the war was fought in the name of the Soviet Union, the people's of the now independent former Soviet republics still celebrate the war's victory as their own.
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: Stalin era building, May 1 International Worker's Day holiday congratulations; Moscow, 1953
Lower: Western advertising is introduced to Russia. A Cadbury's fruit and nut chocolate billboard in front of the same 1940s, Stalin era building; Moscow, 1995.
Image Correlation: The irony of history. The pictured building, which was constructed during the height of Joseph Stalin's rule, was used to project an image of a powerful communist utopia. Decades later, communism collapsed, only to make way for the very kind of capitalism it was said to be resisting.
Today, Russia is a major force in the globalization process. This has forced difficult choices amongst European Union countries, particularly Germany, in respect to the series of sanctions levied since the stand off between the two countries over the war in Ukraine.
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: May 1 Congratulations for International Workers Day; (Socialist Worker's Holiday) 1958
Lower: Soviet era and recently introduced Western values collide with Stalin in a tailor shop alongside a gambling and striptease casino, Gori, Georgia, 2009.
Image Correlation: Social values fluctuated greatly with end of the Soviet era. The idea of a communist utopia, free of inequality, greed and exploitation, was turned on its head with the rapid infusion of Western consumer culture and economic chaos that followed the collapse Soviet Union.
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: Glory to Soviet Soldiers, Moscow, 1966
Lower: A Russian bunker with a Georgian weapon in the foreground. At the border of Russian-occupied South Ossetia. Dvani, Georgia, 2011.
Image Correlation: A Mid-1960s Soviet military parade in Red Square offers an idealized image projecting a feeling of camaraderie and unity while, decades later, two former Soviet peoples turn their guns on each other as Russian and Georgian forces face off over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
Upper: 1917 October Revolution commemoration postcard and a newspaper clipping describing the Gorbachev-Bush/Baker-Shevardnadze meeting at the Helsinki Summit in September 1990
Lower: Russian checkpoint, South Ossetia-Georgia border, 2005.
Image Correlation: The fluid, ironic nature of history as former allies become enemies and old antagonisms reappear in different forms. The upper images represent two pivotal eras in Soviet history: the October revolution, which created the Soviet Union, and the 1990 US-USSR talks, which help set the groundwork for the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Pictured in the newspaper clipping is Eduard Shevardnadze, foreign minister under Mikhail Gorbachev and later the president of post-Soviet Georgia. Years later, the close history shared between Georgians and Russians would be tested as Russia and Georgia faced off over the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Three years after the lower photo was taken, war broke out over the contested region. The Russia-Georgia conflict was one of a series of clear illustrations of the reemergence of US-Russia geopolitical tensions, as the United States supported Georgia in the 5-day conflict.
Upper: Glory to the armed forces, 1975 and 40 Years USSR (rear); 1957
Lower: Billboard reads “Putin Our President”; Tskhinvali, South Ossetia, 2006.
Image Correlation: An iteration of history (upper) reflects the vestiges of a former empire, which have since reappeared in modern times with emblems of a reinvigorated Russian nation (lower).
This billboard appears in South Ossetia, a territory recognized by the Western international community as part of Georgia. However, Russia has openly supported the independence of the territory and even went to war to maintain it in August 2005. Since then there have been rumors of a full Russian annexation of the region.
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: Original WWII era Soviet Map approaching Kiev; 1952 card -“For Peace”.
Lower: Central Kiev protests, 2005
Image Correlation: The concept of peace and optimism through the eras. In different contexts, times, and manifestations, the hope for peace prevails.
Upper: Global Provocation; October Glory (Ukrainian) 1980.
Lower: Georgia aspires to join NATO; Tbilisi, 2007.
Image Correlation: Metaphorically, Putin provokes Obama alongside an orange and black St. George ribbon associated with Soviet WWII war veterans, which has since been adopted by pro-Russia separatists as a symbol of military valor in eastern Ukraine.
The 1980s Ukrainian postcard represents the idea of "friendship between nations". That idea was tested by Georgia and Ukraine's bid to join NATO and the resulting tensions with Russia, represented in the lower photo.
Upper: War Is Over? - Glory to the Great October, 1965
Lower: Property owners cut off by Russia's expansion of South Ossetia's borders into Georgia proper. The expansion happened during the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. South Ossetia ABL (Administrative Boundary Line), 2013.
Image Correlation: A 1980s newspaper featuring images of the highest ranking Soviet awards; Order of Lenin, Order of October Revolution, Red Banner of Labor displays next to the headline, War is Over? Below, razor wire demarcates property as a result of a military campaign to further annex deeper into Georgian territory as unstable borders and unresolved Russia-Georgia policy issues continue into present times.
Upper: No Tolerance for Weaponry, “Peace”; 1961
Lower: European Union-Georgian-Russian-South Ossetian negotiations in no-man's-land between Georgian-Russian annexed borders; Ergneti, Georgia, 2011.
Image correlation: An early 1960s call for peace through arms reduction on a Soviet postcard (upper) amplifies the irony of an intractable situation over 50 years later. “Peace” negotiators take place in the lower photo while the unresolved aftermath of the Georgian-Russian war of 2008 perpetuates unstable on-the-ground conditions.
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.
Upper: A New? Cold War (German) Putin-Merkel standoff, 2015.
Lower: Brezhnev statue with original period artefacts relocated to an outlying park after collapse of the Soviet Union; Moscow, Russia, 1995.
Image Correlation: Poignant news dispatches describing incessant military escalations between Russian and Ukrainian forces have inadvertently upset the post-Cold War international order amongst American, European Union and Russian governments. History is currently being choreographed towards an open-ended denouement while Putin and Merkel seem to spar amidst strands of artifacts from the Berlin Wall and a monument to honor Soviet "hero-pilots." Could the frozen Moscow park during winter imply a reoccurring cold war scenario upon the world once again?