REMAINS OF A SOVIET UTOPIA by Arne Piepke and Ingmar Nolthing

By in Georgian Month on 5. August 2017

Vaziani, an estate of rundown tower blocks surrounded by mountains and broad acres, is situated just a 30-minutes drive  off the gates of Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi. Vaziani settlement, constructed during the soviet era, served as accommodation for soldiers, stationed in a near-by military base, living there with their families. In the UdSSR military personnel and politicians were highly privileged. They were provided with adequate housing, received better salaries and were given priority in the distribution of luxury goods and supplies.

Back then, life was celebrated in Vaziani – the population lived in prosperity and the settlement flourished. However, after the downfall of the Soviet Union, the stationed Russian soldiers left the housing estate for home – without them Vaziani’s good days were numbered. The government sold the apartments for around 50 Lari (abt 20 US-Dollars) to people with deprived backgrounds, homeless, or to refugees from Abkhazia, who had to flee from the Russian arms in the Russo-Georgian War. Today the authorities don’t care any longer about the settlement and its inhabitants. The first building collapsed in May 2013 – others are not far from experiencing the very same fate. Problems with water, gas and electrical supplies are huge – many lines and tubings are demolished. The sewage system is leaking, and thus contaminating drinking water by fecal bacteria. The unemployment rate in Vaziani is a staggering 90 percent – and has stuck there for the last couple of years. There are simply no jobs in Vaziani. Although time shattered concrete to dust, the people stay – because there is no alternative, they hope for a future in their home.

The work ‘Remains of a Soviet Utopia’ by Arne Piepke and Ingmar Björn Nolting, documents the present conditions in the former military town – it portrays the inhabitants, reflects their daily life and their connection to Vaziani.

Arne Piepke (1991) studies photography at the Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Germany focussing on documentary photography. He deals with different aspects of home and his personal relation to it. Recently he worked on social-documentaries in Georgia and Kosovo. In December 2016 he took part at the portfoliowalk of DFA in Augsburg and in march 2017 he participated in the Nikon-NOOR Adademy workshopat C/O in Berlin.

Ingmar Björn Nolting (1995) studies photography at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Dortmund, Germany. His work focuses on long-term documentary photo-essays mainly dealing with social and sociological issues. Driven by curiosity about how people feel, think, and interact, he tries to understand what it means to be human. Ingmar is based in Dortmund.

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