Homo Sovieticus - USSR 1989 CCCP


At a school in Moscow I have permission to take pictures. And each time I walk into a classroom, accompanied by the guide and the director, boys and girls leap out of their seats to greet us. The benevolent discipline, the teaching methods, the entire atmosphere take me back to my own elementary school class in Flanders during the sixties. We had Christ, King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola on the wall, they have Marx, Lenin and Gorbachev.

An anecdote from Carl De Keyzer in this book.

Using the terms Glasnost and Perestroika Michael Gorbachev rings in a new era for his extensive country at the end of 1987. Unknown reforms will have to steer the country towards a more western-oriented society.

It means that every speech and statement from Gorbachev is front-page news in the West Even the Soviet. Union itself is often in the news. The severe censorship of previous years seems to have given way to an unprecedented openness. Western journalists are allowed to visit Armenia for example after the heavy earthquakes in 1988. The official Russian press even reports on the huge national demonstrations and plots in Georgia, Armenia and the Baltic States.

But how is the 'Homo Sovieticus' faring in the meantime? The Belgian photographer Cart de Keyzer visits the Soviet Union twelve times in the space of a year (August '88 to August 89). De Keyzer does not allow himself to be enticed into casual photography. He travels in areas and finds himself in situations where any trace of change is barely noticeable. In the choices he makes and in his well-considered photography he manages to capture an atmosphere which perhaps will soon really belong to the past.

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