Since its independence in 1991 Ukraine has been seeking its position on the world stage. The former Soviet republic lies strategically between Russia to the east, the Black Sea to the south and Europe to the west, and is moreover an important conduit for Russian gas. This location has strengthened Ukraine, but it has also given the land a divided soul. Should it look to Russia, or to Europe, for its future? Should it become a liberal social democracy, or opt for a Russian model? These are questions which are further complicated by regional, linguistic, cultural and ethnic differences.
On a commison of Altemus a group of young Eastern European photographers travelled to Ukraine to record the complex reality of the young democracy in photo essays. The nine photographers, united in the collective Sputnik Photos, all come from transitional countries, and know the pitfalls and possibilities of the democratisation process. The photographers expose the traces of Soviet domination, but also celebrate the country's variety, and the spirit of the young people who will decide their country's future.
Altemus is a non-profit organisation which since 1999 has been helping young people in rising democracies to develop their leadership qualities. The photographers are alumni of Altemus' Leadership Training Programme for East European Photojournalists.