In 1977, photojournalist Arthur Grace arrived at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport to document “life behind the Iron Curtain” for Time and Newsweek. Taken over 12 years, the black and white images collected in COMMUNISM(S): A COLD WAR ALBUM (Damiani, $60) reflect exactly that: the daily life of citizens young and old, rich and poor, proud and helpless, against the backdrop of literally colorless backdrops of Poland, the Soviet Union, Romania, East Germany and Yugoslavia.
One of the few western cameramen allowed access to these countries at that time, Grace had to face the reality that the lens went both ways: was busy watching me. Reaching under the veneer of officially sanctioned “Potemkin villages,” Grace captured an array of psychological responses to the Marxist-Leninist pact – summarized in an introduction by former Time Eastern Europe bureau chief Richard Hornik , thus: “We will provide jobs, food, housing, education, medical care and a minimum of entertainment. You will remain silent.
In these images, almost all previously unseen – of weddings and posters of deposed dictators, worshipers in Moscow and beauty pageant contestants in Warsaw, boys playing ping-pong in a public square in East Berlin and so many teenagers doing regular teenage things – we see reminders of “what autocracy looked like then,” Grace writes, “and might look like again.”
In December 1981, President Wojciech Jaruzelski of Poland declared martial law, arresting thousands, cutting telephone and telegraph lines, and instituting a six-day work week and a strict curfew. Pictured above, taken during one of many peaceful demonstrations against these conditions – to which the junta has responded with tear gas, police batons and water cannons – protesters in Warsaw make the “V” sign ” to symbolize resistance.
A queue at a grocery store in Warsaw reflects the “daunting economic problems” the country faced in 1982, according to Hornik. “Everything was missing – food store windows were filled with pyramids of empty tea cans. the demand.Why should they?Communist propaganda has also denied this link.
A farmer rests his horses in a field near his home in Transylvania, Romania, in 1977. For many citizens of these countries, especially after the devastation of World War II, the Marxist pact “was reluctantly accepted “, writes Hornik. “There are still people today in the former Soviet bloc who yearn for the good old days when everyone had free jobs, housing and medical care.”
Teenage boys hang out in Moscow’s Red Square in 1977, ogling young women and trying to look cool.
Doctors stand ready during the annual May Day parade in East Berlin, honoring the international labor movement, in 1977.
A teenager waits at a bus stop in Sarajevo, Bosnia, near a poster of dictator Josip Broz Tito in 1983.