NYLA Talks

Exploring Soviet Nostalgia. A Conversation with Andrew Miksys

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USSR themed jerseys, recently designed by Adidas, showed how differently the West and the Post-Soviet world see the legacy of the Soviet Union. Is there a new wave of Soviet nostalgia aimed at those people who were too young to experience communism themselves?

Our guest of the episode is Andrew Miksys, the American-Lithuanian photographer, who has seen it all: the Western world, the Post-Soviet world and the fashion world. Growing up in Seattle and now living in Vilnius, he documented Lithuanian village discos and Belarussian victory day parades. His aesthetics caught the eyes of Vetements and Gosha Rubchinskiy, the names that made post-soviet chic the biggest trend in today’s fashion. He photographed their collections for Dazed and Confused and VICE, the leading fashion and alternative culture magazines.

We talked of why in the West, the hammer and sickle is seen differently than swastika (both symbols are banned in Lithuania), why Miksys refused to put his photos in the post-soviet themed exhibition in New York and why, in his view, Lithuanians have to recognise the Holocaust history if we want the world to recognize the crimes by USSR.

Andrew Miksys: „I’m fine having discussion of USSR and how horrible it was. But in Lithuania we still have this problem that until there’s a real discussion about what happened to the half of the population of Vilnius and tons of people in other places, who were murdered here by other Lithuanians, you’re talking into the wind.“

In 1998 Andrew Miksys won a Fulbright grant to photograph in Lithuania. His first photo project Baxt showed the hidden world of Lithuania’s Roma community.

Karolis Vyšniauskas, the host of the podcast: „I wanted to have this conversation at some point. I feel now is the right time.“

The Soviet occupation changed the photographer’s father’s life. In 1944 he fled Lithuania, seeking to escape from the deportation to Siberia.

The USSR themed dress was criticized by a leading Lithuania’s writer Rūta Šepetys, the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and many people on social media. Without a further explanation, Adidas removed the dress and other similar clothing from their stores.

The new poster of Lithuanian song festival Dainų Šventė features a stylized version of what can be seen as swastika. It’s not the first time when Miksys spots flirtation with the Nazi symbol in Lithuanian public spaces.

Photography by Berta Tilmantaitė and Karolis Vyšniauskas. Podcast episode hosted and edited by Karolis Vyšniauskas, recorded by Kata Bitowt. Original music composed by Martynas Gailius. The interview was recorded at Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania.

Further reading:

The man who made Russian fashion cool, by Morwenna Ferrier, The Guardian

Vetements in Lithuania by Andrew Miksys and Lotta Volkova, Dazed and Confused

andrewmiksys.com


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