“Markets in the former Soviet Union are a very curious mix of different cultural flavours,” says photographer Gianluca Pardelli. “They can’t be defined as European or Asian. They are neither exotic nor familiar for the Western traveller. They are somewhat reminiscent of eastern Europe before the Second World War, mixed with a bit of Arab and Jewish souk and a touch of Turkish bazaar.”
Pardelli is something of an expert on the subject of markets. For the past two years, he’s travelled across eastern Europe, from Azerbaijan to Uzbekistan, Moldova to Georgia, capturing the places where people come together to sell food and produce, and to trade news and gossip.
Pardelli was born in Tuscany. A fascination with Slavic languages and culture took him onto a long journey through post-Communist Europe before he settled in Tbilisi, Georgia. He fell in in love with the complex heritage of a vanished empire, and with the scrutinizing gaze of the photojournalist studied the habits and customs of his new environs.
In the markets he visited across the region he found a link between past and present: the atmosphere and smells, the way traders and customers talked and interacted seemed to him a way of life that harked back to the Soviet era, or indeed possibly before that. In a stall selling fresh fish in Astrakhan or pumpkins in Odessa you could find a whole history, a remembrance of things past.
Yoshkar-Ola, Republic of Mari-El