Belarus is one of those places in which the smell and the air of the Soviet Union is still alive, safe and sound. And Rafal Milach‘s photo series portraying Belarusian winners of the most ridiculous prizes you can imagine, is the perfect example of that. As you can see, the regime awards the working class and the people supporting the regime. More important: it awards the loyal and the good citizen all around the country, in kolkhozes, schools, nightclubs and village discos. The winners receive a state diploma which must be a great status boost in a country in which facade and prestige mean the world.
The idea for this project is great and curious. And Milach helps it a bit with the Vice-like flash-in-abundance effect, which stresses the creepiness and awkwardness of being ‘ a winner’. Besides this, I’m sure The Mother of the Best Large Family (see below) was not just standing with that peacock on top of her bed, the photo was staged and the staging ads to the feeling too.
Would be interesting to know more of these people’s stories as well, but I couldn’t find more. There’s more in the book I read, and you can buy it here. Meanwhile, here it is, the crème de la crème from Belarus:
Anastasia, winner in BRSM (Belorussian Youth Association) beauty contest. BRSM is a state organization recruiting the most active people under the age of 35. Many of them become the political elite of the Republic of Belarus.
All images © Rafal Milach/Institute