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Moscow | Street photographs, April 1982

In April 1982 I visited Moscow for a few weeks. The weather was beautiful. I walked around with a camera in my pocket (an Olympus Xa-1 or Xa-2, I think) and I took a ton of photographs.

I walked a lot around Oktyabr'skaya square, where I was staying, the roads to the city centre, and a few other places. I remember a disused monastery, a visit to friends in the suburb of Sviblovo, and a short trip out of town to the flea market in Malakhovka.

What do my photos show? I can’t say – whatever you want to see, probably. Here’s a few circumstances, though. In April 1982, Brezhnev had six months to live. Nearly all the party leaders were at the limit of the human lifespan.

I heard the youngest member of the Politburo had been seen at an edgy theatrical performance. As the curtain fell, everyone sat on their hands. The boss looked around, then clapped – so the audience breathed and clapped too. That was the first time I heard of Gorbachev.

The country was frozen in anticipation of change – but how much and in what direction? Or would things just stay the same forever? I felt the tension. The Cold War was still in full swing. The Falklands war had just started, but I was the last person to find out.

Recently I noticed that my photos were fading. I decided to scan them and put them online as a record of Moscow towards the end of the Cold War, on the edge of unimaginable transformations. Here they are.