IN THE SHADOW OF THE BEAR, UKRAINE

Ukraine

2009

This project is a document looking at the aftermath of the peaceful ‘colour’ revolution that took place in Ukraine against the backdrop of Russia’s resurgence as a major international power and it’s continuous interfering in their sovereign and domestic affairs.

A major geopolitical battle is being fought out in Ukraine, as they try to free themselves from Russian influence:

Russia, fuelled by energy dollars, has emerged after its difficulties under Yeltsin into a more assertive and aggressive force. It sees Ukraine as being under its sphere of influence or its “near abroad” and as such has acted like an imperial power towards its smaller neighbour.

At the same time the European Union and NATO are expanding and gaining influence close to the borders of Russia. With Russia resisting, the situation is reminiscent of the Cold War era.

In Ukraine, Russia has played a major role in using its economic, military and energy resources to destabilise the pro-western Government.

Since the revolution, the Orange coalition has collapsed due to political infighting, corruption, recriminations and incompetence.

Russia has worked to destabilize the pro-western government by increasing gas prices paid by Ukraine and demanding unpaid debt.

The situation came to a head in January 2006 and again in January 2009 when Russia turned off the flow of gas to Ukraine and in consequence, to Western Europe, something that never happened during the Cold War.

As Ukraine prepares for the first presidential elections since the Orange revolution, Russia has intensified pressure on Ukraine. Portraying Ukraine as a hostile neighbour and accusing her of sending troops to Georgia last year to kill Russian soldiers and of disrupting the operations of the Russian fleet in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev issued a letter to President Yushchenko cataloguing more than a dozen “anti-Russian” policies, including Ukraine’s NATO bid, mistreatment of Russian investors, limits on the use of the Russian language, and efforts to promote a version of history that says the Soviet Union committed genocide against Ukrainians in the 1930s.

The work looks, in subtle and quiet moments, at the signs in the domestic and public spheres, which when taken together, build up a representation of how ordinary people in Georgia and Ukraine negotiate the everyday space that they find themselves in. I am looking at each country individually, with their own very different dynamics and characteristics, but also the aspects that are familiar between the two through their shared history in the Soviet Union.

With the project In The Shadow of the Bear – Georgia and Ukraine – George Georgiou has been awarded in the Projects Assistance Awards, run by British Journal of Photography 2010.