Tags / West
Salcininkai, Lithuania’s Polish and Russian-speaking city is only five kilometers from Belarus. In the backdrop of ‘Zapad 2017’ military exercises across the border, Lithuanian government government has finger-pointed at the the substantial Russian-speaking minority for being susceptible to separatism, and held multiple military exercises in the region.
In turn, however, they have demonised the vulnerable population, suffering from depopulation and social exclusion.
In April, 2017, unannounced snap drills in the area became the center of controversy. Armed men in military fatigues took over the local police station and institutions with little resistance from the unprepared security forces. Political fallout from these exercises continue to this day.
Additionally, the voting patterns in Salcininkai and Lithuanian peripheries along the 670 kilometer border with Belarus are firmly with the pro-Kremlin, Polish minority party.
I visited the area to speak to the local people, who are mostly ignored in the public discourse, and explore some of the underlying issues in the region.
"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.
Located in the Strait of Hormoz, in the Persian Gulf, the island of Qeshm is rapidly expanding, growing in population, business and infrastructures.
New hotels and living quarters are eating up the arid landscape to accommodate the tourists and the international business community. Qeshm enjoys the status of free enterprise zone: visas can be obtained easily by foreigners, the circulation and convertibility of foreign currency and capital is unrestricted. The city-capital has particularly become a major hub for Iranians tourists and business men alike. However, the West of the island is still inhabited by one of the most traditional communities of Iran. Fishing is the leading occupation, but an increasing amount of workers are employed in the gas extraction industry.
Les dommages causés à la voie ferrée ont obligé l'Union Pacific à dépêcher des équipes chargées d'inspecter et réparer les rails.
Because of the damages caused to the railway, the Pacific Union had to send assessment teams to examine and repair the rails.
Le boom économique texan et la hausse des échanges avec le Mexique oblige à élargir l'autouroute 35 au long de laquelle se trouve West. La commune désormais plus en mesure d'en profiter pleinement.
Given the economic boom in Texas coupled with increased exchanges with Mexico, Highway 35, along which is located West, had to be enlarged. The town is now able to fully benefit from it.
Les engins de chantier destinés au déblayage des décombres se croisent dans les rues menant au site de l'explosion.
Engines brought to clear out West are all around town.
La façade de la chambre de commerce de la ville voisine de Waco, à laquelle est rattachée West, ne laisse rien paraître de l'agitation qui y règne après l'explosion du 17 avril, mais les acteurs de l'économie locale ont mobilisés pour que la région reste dans la course.
Waco Chamber of Commerce's facade isn't showing signs of agitation. But inside, the local economy is mobilizing to mitigate the impact of the West blast so that it can kepp on participating in the Texas economy boom.
West est une commune essentiellement rurale, dont l'essentiel de l'activité tourne autour du commerce et de l'agriculture. D'où la présence d'une usine d'engrais en pleine ville.
West is an essentially rural town. Its activity mostly revolves around agriculture and business, hence the presence of a fertilizer plant right in the middle of the city.
La société tchéquo-américaine RVOS dirigée par Joe Liles (droite) dans le secteur assure environ la moitié des maisons de West, qui est à 75 % tchèque selon l'ambassadeur de la République Tchèque auprès des Etats-Unis. Ne sachant pas quand il pourra accéder aux domiciles de ces nombreux clients, l'assureur est donc venu en camping-car et reçoit les victimes de l'explosion dans cette espace.
The Czech-American company RVOS, directed by Joe Liles (right) in this area, insures almost half of the houses in West. According to the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States, 75% of the city is Czech. Since he does not know when he will be able to access the houses of his numerous clients, the insurer came in a motorhome in which he receives them.
Dans la principale banque de West, la queue au bureau des donations est plus longue que celle du guichet.
In West's main bank, more people are lining up for donations than at the regular counter.
Le site du West Festival attirant près de 20 000 personnes autour de l'héritage tchèque de la commune chaque début de mois de septembre sert de parking aux bénévoles venus en nombre.
The site of the West Festival that attracts almost 20 000 persons around the Czech heritage of the community every year in September has been turned into a parking for the numerous volunteers.
Avec une douzaine d'employés, comme l'usine d'engrais ayant explosé, l'usine d'aliments pour bétail West Feeds est désormais le principal employeur de la ville.
With a dozen employees, just like the disappeared fertilizer plant, West Feeds is the city's main employer today.
The explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, Texas, occurred at the edge of Highway 35, a vital link for the North American economy, where the heart of Texas is booming. The loss of this plant is a blow that threatens Texas’ economic model, which is based on low taxes and low binding legislation for companies.
L'explosion de l'usine d'engrais de West, au Texas, est survenue au bord d'une autoroute vitale pour l'économie nord-américaine, au cœur d'un Texas en plein boom. Un coup dur qui questionne le modèle économique texan fondé sur des impôts faibles et des législations peu contraignantes pour les entreprises.
Au lendemain de l'explosion, le Stockyards Café situé au bord de l'autoroute a fermé pour centraliser les donations de la grande distribution et organiser leur répartition auprès des victimes. Comme l'ensemble des salariés, qui "ne se verraient pas rester chez eux et ne rien faire", Janis participe à l'opération. Elle a été rejointe par sa fille et son gendre. "Tout le monde essaie d'aider", commentent ces derniers.
On the day after the blast, Stockyards Café, located on the side of the highway, closed its doors in order to gather the donations of large retailers and organize their distribution among the victims. Like the other employees who "could not see themselves stay at home doing nothing," Janis participates in the operation. Her daughter and son-in-law have also joined. "Everybody tries to help," they said.
Les ventes de bétail programmées au lendemain de l'explosion ont été annulées et les lieux réquisitionnés pour l'organisation des points presse.
The livestock sales scheduled for the day after the blast were canceled while the site was requisitioned for press briefings.
La vie continue au très populaire Czech Stop, dont les clients entrent et sortent au même rythme qu'un jour habituel. Mais à l'intérieur, comme dans la plupart des commerces du secteur, on leur propose de faire une donation à destination des victimes de l'explosion.
Life goes on at the popular Czech Stop where clients come in and out as on an ordinary day. Inside however, and like in most of the businesses of the area, they are offered to make a donation for the victims of the blast.
Preuve que son propriétaire est présent, la lumière est allumée dans ce magasin de meubles du centre-ville de West tout proche du lieu de l'explosion. Mais ses vitrines détruites, il affiche fermé.
The light of this furniture store in West city center is on, attesting the presence of its owner. However, a closed sign has been put up since the shop front is destroyed.
Les entreprises de construction de la ville de Waco voisine sont venues en nombre sécuriser les bâtiments encore sur pied après l'explosion. Débordés, les quelques artisans de la ville ne pouvaient faire face à la demande.
Numerous construction companies of the neighboring city of Waco came to secure the buildings still standing after the explosion. In West, the few craftspersons were overwhelmed and could not face the demand alone.
Prostitutes entertain a customer in a specially dedicated prositution zone in Sentani, Jayapura district. Migrant prostitutes mostly work in official and semi-official brothels and require clients to wear condoms. Indigenous Papuan prostitues, however, work on the streets and are not supported by any kind of official on unofficial structure, greatly increasing the risk of abuse and HIV infection.
Young Israeli soldiers in Hebron