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Work / Photography

Julia Autz documents Transnistria, a country steeped in Soviet nostalgia

Transnistria, AKA the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, is a self-proclaimed republic on a strip of land between the River Dniester and the eastern Moldovan border with Ukraine. “During the collapse of the Soviet Union the narrow strip of land declared independence from Moldova. Since the civil war in 1992 the central government lost control and an unofficial currency, parliament, national anthem and citizenship was formed,” explains Julia. “But the self-proclaimed state is not recognised by anybody, not even by Russia – yet there is a huge Russian impact on political, economical and public life.”

Germany-born Julia wanted to document the country she feels has been neglected by “the rest of the world” and remains “nostalgic for the Soviet past.” Her series mixes together portraits and landscapes. “On the one hand my pictures show places and people that don’t seem to have changed. But on the other hand, you also see melancholy and sadness in people’s faces. Especially the younger generation who dream of a more colourful and hopeful world.”

Many of the photographs were taken in Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria, but Julia also travelled to villages, suburbs and bigger cities to build a fuller picture of the country. Many of the people she met weren’t used to having visitors, yet they still tried to communicate with Julia. “People tried to speak with me using Google Translate or calling other friends who could speak English,” says Julia. “During my stay I made a lot of friends who showed me around or introduced me to other people so it meant I could meet with a lot of the locals.”

This closeness means Julia’s images feel intimate and personal. She’s in people’s homes, present at meal times and special occasions, managing to gain an insider perspective. “My main concept was to show the daily life of the people in that unrecognised country. There are articles about Transnistria which only show the negative side of the place. They write about corruption, the KGB or the huge presence of the Russian military,” says Julia. The photographer captures this displaced country and poses questions about identity, generational differences and time standing still.

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Julia Autz: Transnistrien

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Julia Autz: Transnistrien

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Julia Autz: Transnistrien