Geert Van Den Eede
Where Are We Now?
The Balkans and the countries that surround it comprise a patchwork of countries, peoples, nationalities, cultures, languages, religions and in every country minority groups from the surrounding countries are also living.
Conquests and wars have constantly shaken up the maps of the region throughout the course of history. In the fourth century B.C. Alexander the Great left Macedonia on a conquest that brought him to India; the Byzantine Empire lasted for more than a thousand years prior to the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the Ottomans stood at the gates of Vienna in 1529. In 1911 Cracow, Lviv, Braşov, Sarajevo, Dubrovnik and Trieste belonged to one kingdom: the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
After the Balkan wars in 1912 and 1913, the two World Wars and the breakup of Yugoslavia the boundaries were redrawn again; and on the following day many people woke up in a different country.
Geopolitical fault lines traverse the region. Where these lines run precisely is not always clear.
I remember a holiday photo taken by a childhood friend in Romania in the 1980s showing a young soldier standing behind an iron fence, staring directly into the lens. It was taken in one of those resorts on the Black Sea where Western capitalists were able to take a cheap holiday in one of the resorts, but under supervision. The iron fence and the soldiers have been gone for 25 years now, but the cheap resorts remain.
To what extent will the young generation continue to cherish its traditions? Will the man with the synthesizer replace all orchestras? A female student from Romania told me that she found it rather strange that people are willing to share an intimate event such as a funeral or wedding with a foreign photographer.
Since 2013 fighting between East and West has been going on in Ukraine. “What do you think about it?” I ask a young Bulgarian. “I think we are just a pawn in a larger game, as always”, he replied.
This series of photographs was taken between 2007 and 2015 during my travels through Romania, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro.