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Shadows of Empire

TOL slide show: The Soviet Union is 20 years gone, but it lingers in the landscape from Tallinn to Ulaanbaatar.

by Mary Frances Lindstrom 24 October 2011

History may be observed through events, with distinct beginnings and endings, clean and clear lines. History may also be observed through processes and mentalities, with half-tones and hazy edges. Breaks with the past – the end of an empire – do not happen in isolation or without nuances. Labels may change overnight, walls may collapse in one day, but ways of thinking persist, legacies run deep.


The collapse of the Soviet Union created borders between states and boundaries among people. Change was welcome, but at the same time change is uncertain. A new world may divide people in new ways. The intention of these images is to show shadows of empire interacting with and informing processes of change after empire – from the 1990s to today, from Tallinn to Ulaanbaatar. The new world and the old world live next to each other for a period of time. These images document moments in time of the journey to understand and to transcend legacies of the Soviet empire.



Mary Frances Lindstrom's photography derives from a keen interest in political and social transformation in the formerly socialist societies in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. These and other images were shown at the Museum of Occupations in Tallinn in September and October 2010. Her work has also been exhibited in Ulaanbaatar, Almaty, Riga, Krakow, and Kyiv.

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