Everywhere in Eastern Europe the relative backwardness of socialism has preserved, what capitalism has largely destroyed in other places” (Timothy Garton Ash, “The Magic Lantern”, 1991)

In 1989, Latvia, in conjunction with the other Baltic countries, peacefully gained independence from the Soviet Union. Fifty years of Russian occupation had left a clear mark behind, which 15 years of capitalism could not obliterate. Within the population as a whole, its individuals, in the city as well as in the countryside – an incredible tension exists between the present and the past.

Predominantly negative associations form the perception of the recent Eastern European past in the Western part of the continent. But under a politically obnoxious system, human qualities like friendship, family, solidarity and mutual support were thriving. And they are still alive in Latvia.

The relationship between Latvia and Russia is still tense, the looming shadows of their recent past is being neglected rather than discussed and processed on both sides. Latvia expects at least a formal apology for crimes and damages experienced during the Russian occupation. Russia, on the other hand, demands more rights they claim to be missing for the Russian minority in the country. 30% of Latvia’s population are Russian.

This photographic project aims to illustrate this current situation by showing mostly architectural marks the communist era has left behind. The chosen subjects are remains of the Soviet occupation, unique and at times peculiar relics, sometimes still in use, but often in decay. As some of these subjects might disappear soon, the project also shows a documentary approach.

The chosen representatives of socialist realism are shown as postcards, in an excessively aesthetic way in an attempt to rule out any allegations of glorifying their architecture or their intellectual origins.

Exhibited in April 2005 in Vienna as part of a final works exhibition of fotoK

Camera: Horseman Large Format, lens 135mm

Film: Kodak Portra 400, 4×5”