& Cowgirls

Communism & Cowgirls investigates the New Russia, focusing on the first generation to grow up after the fall of communism. The young people enjoy freedoms that their parents did not. They are influenced by Western youth culture, have access to the internet, follow consumer lifestyle - and yet they are confused. The shadow of Communism still casts a spell from the past, and many young people are poor. And - true to the spirit of Communism - they still agitate against American capitalism. Yet they drink Coca Cola and wear the latest fashion as shown on MTV.

Quotes from students of the South Ural State University in Chelyabinsk.

Winner Dutch Photo Academy Award, 2004


”I’m proud of my country because it has its own national character. Of course, today there are many customs and traditions from other countries such as the USA and Great Britain. But we won’t forget our own history, because it has to be safeguarded for future generations.”

—Natalia Krymskaya


Shared dorm room
Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003


Shared dorm room
Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003


Shared dorm room
Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003

”During the last years many people in Russia have become rather rude and unfriendly due to economic, political, social and many other difficulties. But in spite of all negative sides of the Russians, I think my nation is the best.”

—Irina Erofeeva


Kurchatov monument
Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003


Lenin Street
Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003

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Day of Victory
Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003

”Russia has many smart people. Many scientists work in Russia despite their low wages. They constantly invent things that astonish the rest of mankind.”

—Elena Zaitseva


Bus stop
Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003


Shared dorm room
Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003

”Friendships and relationships are important to Russian people. Anyone can go to a friend and speak about any problem he has. That’s why we don’t need as many psychologists.”

—Tatiana Pechagina


Tractor Factory
Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003


Boarding school
Karabash, Russia, 2003

”Russian sportsmen are remarkable. They often win in different competitions all over the world.”

—Evgeniy Beykel


Metallurgical district
Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003


Metallurgical district
Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003


Metallurgical district
Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003

”Young Russian men are courageous, patriotic and generous. I like the fact that they are funny and that they can always improve your mood, calm you down or give you hope.”

—Evgenia Izergina


Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003


Abandoned house
Argayash, Russia, 2003


Shared dorm room
Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003

”I feel proud of my country and I love my country, because I’ve been living here ever since I was born. It is a powerful country, but now, due to the economic crisis and some problems it has lost its political power. But that is not going to last long.”

—Ekaterina Chuckina


Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003


Private school
Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003

”Nature in Russia is very beautiful but often people don’t treasure this beauty and pollute the environment.”

—Julia Astrankova


Abandoned house
Karabolka, Russia, 2003


Lake Karyer
Chelyabinsk, Russia, 2003

“In carefully composed formal images, Communism & Cowgirls investigates the New Russia, focussing on the first generation to grow up after the fall of communism.”

—Martin Parr & Gerry Badger



Text: Rob Hornstra and students of the South Ural State University. Design: De Russen.

Communism and Cowgirls was done as a graduation project while at the Academy of Arts in Utrecht in 2004. The book drew attention because of the way it was financed. Hundred books were sold in advance. Names of the buyers were listed in the colophon. This concept was widely followed and is seen as a precursor to crowdfunding. Communism and Cowgirls is included in The Photobook: A History volume III by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger.

Utrecht, The Netherlands: self-published, 2004. Bilingual edition (Dutch / English), hardcover, 20,6 x 25,5 cm (8 1/8 x 10 in.), 114 pages including 1 fold-out page, 119 color photographs.

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Communism and Cowgirls has never been exhibited as a solo show (only as graduation show). Numerous works from the series have been shown in smaller settings or group exhibitions and more recently in the overview exhibition Golden Years: Rob Hornstra’s Russia in Huis Marseille, Amsterdam. The exhibition brought together more than seventy works made in Russia, Georgia and Abkhazia between 2003 and 2013. For more information, please contact


Huis Marseille, Amsterdam, 2013


Huis Marseille, Amsterdam, 2013


Onze Wereld (Dutch), November 2004

”Almost all photographs are carefully exposed with subtle flash and have a miraculous naturalness.”

—PhotoQ, 2008


Design Mind (us), June 2009


Witness Magazine (us), January 2008