Fertile Ukraine – Hitler dreamt of it, but it fell prey to Stalin. It was Stalin and others like him that cultivated this land. They did what they could. They are long gone, but the fertile land of the Ukraine continues to yield its crop – successive lumps of concrete. It is cracked on the surface, with rust-coloured patches, but still firmly set in the ground. It is like a pang of conscience in the fable-like landscape of the Black Sea. A reminder that changes are slow to occur. It is like the Ukraine – keen to change, but somehow failing to. As if the concrete filled not only an external, but also an internal space. Only a few years have passed since the Orange Revolution and people have already lost hope that things will work out, that they can get better. They are confused and tired of political chaos. The whole Soviet Union had once spent their holidays in Black Sea resorts. Soviet vacationers left behind Soviet architecture, mentality and sentiment. In Crimea, few people speak Ukrainian. The very fact that it was recognised as an official language is considered by many locals to be a presidential whim. But not a dangerous one if they talk about it…in Russian.
Feature / U / Black Sea of Concrete by Rafal Milach
U (2008-2009) Of all the former republics of the USSR, Ukraine is one of the most important. With a population of 47 million and a territory as large as France, this EU neighbor is crucial for both Russia and the West. In addition to its natural resources, heavy industries and access to the Black Sea, Ukraine is a major transit country for Russia’s oil and gas. As witnessed last winter, events in the Ukraine have a direct impact on the stability and security of two continents. Although it has been independent since 1991, this emerging democracy has yet to form its national identity. Like many post-Soviet states, it is in the throes of an identity crisis. To gain a better understanding of Ukraine and what it means to be Ukrainian, the non-profit organization Altemus commissioned the photographers of Sputnik Photos to travel to the country and capture its ethos. To deepen this process of discovery, it also asked Ukraine’s most talented young writers to write a short essay or story on the theme of identity. Project Manager: Christine Medycky (Altemus) Photo Editor: Maria Mann (European Press Photo Agency) Curator: Rafał Milach Book design: Ania Nalecka / Tapir Book Design