Broken Empire

After The Fall Of The USSR

Photographs By Gerd Ludwig

Text By Fen Montaigne 


Written by Joelcy Kay

Editor & Curator of Edge of Humanity Magazine



Broken Empire starts with a classic landscape photograph of Siberia (cold to the bones), followed by daily life images taken before and after the fall of the USSR.

Chapter One (The Way It Was) is dominated by Moscow and Ukraine images taken 1992/93 right after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. There are some images depicting a higher level of freedom and jubilance, but most carry a gloomy mood and dilapidated infrastructure.

Photos from Moscow depicting the haves and have nots tell stories of extreme opposites, where some splurge while the many struggle to survive.

The picture of what life must have been in Ukraine is depicted among the dead in a gruesome photograph inside of a filthy morgue with stiff naked bodies on tables and others on the floor (p.57).

You can catch an apocalyptic vibe on the harsh features of the miners faces while they sit around half naked and smoking (p.67).

Like soldiers, the chimneys of Lenin Steel Works line up; framing this surreal landscape telling an environmental story.  While the heavy smoke escapes from these vertical structures; fishermen drill the polluted Ural River (pp.70-71). On page 72-73 camels walking away from an abandoned ship on dry land where once flowed the Aral Sea.

Poverty is depicted in many images where residents search for items on wastelands and trash containers (pp.74-75).

A glimpse into hell, hard work and unsanitary conditions are pictured inside this meat plant.  And to think that the flesh tossed around this disgusting place will end up on a fancy plate (p.76).  I will have the homeless guys pasta instead (pp. 78-79).  

Eight children with congenital deformities (without half of their arms and hands) stand for this story telling portrait in Moscow, 1993 (pp. 82-83).

And here comes a Rembrandt moment, depicting Chernobyls victims line up against the wall waiting for compensation (pp. 92-93).

Five years later, life looks very different.  Most images included in A Window Opens (ch.2) were taken inside Russia in 1996/97.  Theres life and progress in these daily life images documenting moments throughout Russia.  New Russia offers happy moments, leisure time, family gathering, shopping, fashion and entertainment.  My favorite image shows a man almost falling from an agitated black horse in the water (pp. 130-131).

Right off the silver screen is the image on page 117, displaying a classic cinematographic scene; the soldier and his lover, lost in each others eyes.  Lit by the trains yellow light and standing by the door; who will disembark first? Is this a love affair? 

The Shape Of The New is the last chapter of the book, depicting images from many places in Russia mainly in 2001 and life looks good.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in how daily life changed over recent decades, communism, capitalism, photography, world history and Russia history.  With some intense images, Broken Empire is an interesting book to have around while entertaining, a good conversation starter. Enjoy!


For book specifics see below


Broken Empire : After the Fall of the USSR




Are you looking to have a published review of your Photo Book?


Joelcy Kay (the curator of Edge of Humanity Magazine and the NO MIDDLEMAN ART GALLERY) has written many reviews for books in the Edge of Humanity Magazine’s Photography Book Collection and now she is available to write yours.


Here are some of her book recommendations:


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