The true nature of national identity and our elemental need to bond with patriotism is questioned in the face of portraits of nationalists of a country that doesn’t exist: Transnistria, but whose symbols have exerted a potent enough influence to maintain a frozen conflict for 25 years.
During the split of the USSR this sliver of land at the edge of Moldova did not willingly secede, but claimed independence as a Soviet Republic. Invisible on any maps outside of its borders, it remains unrecognized by any UN state. But in 1992 a bloody war was fought between Moldovans and Transnistrian separatists and now it remains caught between its Soviet history, current isolation and a dream of annexation by Russia.
My aim is to explore patriotism, nationalism and identity in the post-Soviet Republics. Many of these issues are still causing substantial problems today in places like Eastern Ukraine, Abkazia and South Ossetia. My aim is to explore their identities through a series of portraits of those that claim patriotism; whilst exposing their complex issues of identity. The Cossack who is a monarchist, The foreign minister who longs for her country to be part of another (Russia), the shop assistant who hangs pictures of, Putin, Stalin and the Transnistrian President next to each other.
They all form the fabric of an alienated society.
About the author:
Justin Barton is a photographer based in Kennington, London in the UK.
His work focuses primarily on identity and heritage. Seeking a deeper understanding of history he examines the objects and people in detail by photographing small elements and using the reflection of today to glean unusual perspectives on the past. This year he won his third International Photography Award in 5 years, he was selected for the Belfast Photo Festival and was shortlisted for the KLPA Portrait award. In 2013 he won the Lucie Foundation Emerging Photographer Scholarship and the Still life section at the International Color Awards.
To read more about Transnistria, check it out our article about Body Building in Tiraspol.