1991 Letter

I remember 1991 as being a time of world political upheaval. The Berlin wall was set to come down, and the times felt hopeful, if somewhat uncertain.

The dissolution of the USSR, resulting in fifteen independent republics, took place that year and also chimes with more current debate around the value of union – or otherwise. Choosing that as my subject, having only viewed those events from afar; I am mindful that my view was, and is, very partial.

I wanted my gesture to somehow touch those with some connection to the events of 1991. Consequently, I decided to cut the (rather small) paper sample into fifteen pieces, addressing a covering letter to the ambassador of each embassy.  I glued a fragment of the 1991 paper to each of the fifteen letters and sent them out as a gesture of ‘goodwill with a difference.’

“There are many things I could have done with this fragment of paper – but in the end I decided to look outwards, to give it away, in much the same spirit as it has been given to me. This act reflects paper’s use as a vehicle for communication across the preceding centuries. It is a small gesture, and one which has no overt ‘political’ intent. It is simply a token of good will towards you and all the citizens of your country.“

The video features the letters and fragments of paper before they were sent out, along with heroic and cautionary statements taken from former Soviet posters, whilst four year old fingers play the piano…forever heading towards that challenging future…


Kazakhstan is the first country to reply, and the ambassador very kindly also sent me a map of the countries born that year. Have to say I was genuinely moved to receive it. I wasn’t sure if any country would reply, but to receive even one response (and such an uplifting one) is truly appreciated.

…”1991 will always be unforgettable for me too, as the year when the Republic of Kazakhstan was born amid the shock and turbulence resulting from the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is in 1991 that modern Kazakhstan was founded, establishing the priorities and principles which have guided us on the long road we have walked since then…”
Erlan Idrissov – Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan.


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