These photographs were taken in 1988 by Bruno Barbie and Carl De Keyser and show the everyday life in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
By the end of the decade, the Soviet Union was a country descending into chaos, torn apart by natural and industrial catastrophes, political and economic crises.
Gorbachev’s policies of perestroika and glasnost (English: restructuring and openness) failed to reach Ukraine as early as other Soviet republics because of Volodymyr Shcherbytsky, a conservative communist appointed by Brezhnev and the First Secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party, who resigned from his post in 1989.
The Chernobyl disaster of 1986, the russification policies, and the apparent social and economic stagnation led several Ukrainians to oppose Soviet rule.
Gorbachev’s policy of perestroika was also never introduced into practice, 95 percent of industry and agriculture was still owned by the Soviet state in 1990.
The talk of reform, but the lack of introducing reform into practice, led to confusion which in turn evolved into opposition to the Soviet state itself.
The policy of glasnost, which ended state censorship, led the Ukrainian diaspora to reconnect with their compatriots in Ukraine, the revitalization of religious practices by destroying the monopoly of the Russian Orthodox Church and led to the establishment of several opposition pamphlets, journals and newspapers.
Political revolution in Poland in 1989 sparked other, mostly peaceful revolutions across Eastern European states and led to the toppling of the Berlin Wall. By the end of 1989, the USSR had come apart at the seams.
An unsuccessful coup by Communist Party hard-liners in August 1991 sealed the Soviet Union’s fate by diminishing Gorbachev’s power and propelling democratic forces, led by Boris Yeltsin, to the forefront of Russian politics.
On December 25, Gorbachev resigned as leader of the USSR. The Soviet Union ceased to exist on December 31, 1991.
(Photo credit: Bruno Barbie and Carl De Keyser / oper-1974.livejournal.com).