„One reason, for which one can prefer Berlin to other cities, is that it’s constantly changing.“

Bertolt Brecht, 1928

As if doomed to impermanence, Berlin is a city of constant change, which makes it magnetic for an urban photographer. Destroyed by war, divided into sectors, and rebuilt anew, this city has changed dramatically many times during the last century and finally turned into Europe’s largest experimental playground after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

A Brief Look into the Berlin’s History of Dramatic Changes

Having become the capital of the German Empire in 1871 during a period of rapid industrialization, the small Berlin quickly grew into a major metropolitan city with great contrasts between its new luxury villas and numerous “barracks for rent” (Mietskasernen) for the working class.

The 20s of the Weimar Republic, after World War I, with its new democratic constitution, became the “golden era” for Berlin. It was the largest industrial center of the continent with a population of over four million (Berlin “swallowed” eight neighboring towns and many villages) that offered space for creativity and experiments unrivaled in the rest of Europe.

The collapse of the New York Stock Exchange on Black Thursday of 1929 became the starting point for terrible changes. The growing popularity of the National socialists under Adolf Hitler and their seizure of power in 1933 rapidly transformed Berlin into an epicenter of dictatorship, Nazi terror, and a place of countless human tragedies.

After the end of World War II in 1945, the capitulated Berlin turned into a pile of ruins, was not only divided into four occupational zones but for many years became a symbolic battlefield of the Cold War. An impenetrable Berlin Wall split the city in 1961 for the long twenty-eight years into two opposing political systems, broke the lives of thousands of Berliners, and separated numerous families.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a unified Berlin, which became the symbol of transition away from the Cold War towards peace, started a costly process of reunification and reconstruction at a time of rising unemployment. During this time, many enterprises in East Berlin became bankrupt, and redundant institutions were liquidated. The Federal State of Berlin had to borrow billions for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of East Berlin. To this day, Berlin has an astronomical debt of more than 60 billion euros, while the unemployment rate remains one of the highest across Germany.

I kept a hand on Berlin’s pulse since the summer 2012 and aspired to capture the “Zeitgeist” of the changing metropolis. The photographs are arranged by theme. Plunge into the diversity of Berlin, make a trip across the former Berlin wall, take a stroll through some Berlin streets and avenues, and look into the eyes of a typical Berliner – a resident of the bourgeois Charlottenburg and boisterous Kreuzberg.

# Across The Former Berlin Wall

This part of the exhibition is devoted to all the victims of the Cold War.

# Berliners

The more I lived in Berlin, the more it seemed to me that there are many different Berlins, inhabited by totally different Berliners. Some of them live together and some of them in parallel worlds, encountering each other only on the street or in the subway… Berlin’s population as a whole is changing today as intensely as that of its many districts — annually Berlin attracts about 150 000 new inhabitants while nearly 130 000 depart. Around 13% out of 3.5 million Berliners have a foreign passport from one of nearly 200 countries, most often Turkish. There is even a small “Istanbul” in Berlin (“Kotti” of Kreuzberg). Since the “Golden” 20s, Russians have preferred to live in Charlottenburg, which is often called “Charlottengrad.” In recent years most noticeable and intense immigration has been from Spain, one of the most troubled Eurozone countries.

# Architecture

Contemporary Berlin is an eclectic collection of surprisingly diverse architectural styles. Despite economic difficulties, numerous office buildings, hotels, and luxury apartments are being constructed today in close proximity to the historical city center. An unexpected investment boom came to Berlin in light of the ongoing crisis in the Eurozone — investment into a yet inexpensive capital of one of the most stable economies in the Eurozone is both profitable and safe.

# Social

At a time when most Berliners rent their apartments and when the unemployment rate is rather high, such an external influx leads to significant changes not only in the appearance of some city neighborhoods but also in their socio-demographic character. Fearing an increase in rent prices and the resulting forced relocation, tenants are creating organizations that protect their interests and regularly protest under the slogan “WIR BLEIBEN ALLE”, or “We’re all staying”.

One can love or hate Berlin, but remaining indifferent is simply impossible.

Exhibitions Timeline in Russia:

Started as a part of the Year of Germany in Russia in Moscow 2012-2013, the exhibition traveled across Russia as part of the Days of Germany in the Russian regions, resulting in 13 exhibitions.

Project Sponsor: LUFTHANSA AG

Organizational support: German-Russian Forum e.V., Embassy of Germany in Moscow

State Museum of Arts of the Chuvash Republic
  • 2016

    Khanty-Mansiysk, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug – Yugra, May 2016: Yugra State University

    Smolensk: Smolensk State University

  • 2015

    Orenburg: Regional Library n.a. N.K. Krupskaya

    Ivanovo: Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, Ivanovo Headquarters

  • 2014

    Ulyanovsk: Creative Art Space “Kvartal”

    Astrakhan, Russia, May 2014: Gallery “Loft Kul’t”

    Kirov: Museum & Expositions Center “Diorama”

    Rostov-on-Don: State Public Library of Don

    Volgograd: Volgograd Regional Youth Library

  • 2013 – The Year of Germany in Russia

    Moscow:  Gallery “Vkhutemas”

    Tyumen, Ural Federal District: Regional Scientific Library

    Kazan, Tatarstan: Kazan (Volga region) Federal University

    Cheboksary, Chuvash Republic: State Museum of Arts of the Chuvash Republic