Photos of Romania in the 90s, When Sheep Roamed Bucharest's Motorways


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Photos of Romania in the 90s, When Sheep Roamed Bucharest's Motorways

Photographer Vali Pană captured the city right after the fall of communism.

This article originally appeared on VICE Romania

Like all socialist governments in the Soviet Union, the Romanian communist regime had the ambition to humiliate the West in terms of industrialisation. In order to achieve higher production numbers, the government regularly moved communities of farmers from rural areas – that were still pretty untouched by modernity – to Romania's capital Bucharest. There, these farmers lived in flats and were forced to start a new career as factory workers. But they brought their rural traditions with them – people made soap out of animal fat outside between the high rises, kept livestock in their flats and would cook dinner in front of their building, like they had always done.


That was still the case after the fall of the regime in 1989, when photographer Vali Pană tried to capture that culture clash in his photography. This resulted in a series of images taken in the early 90s, showing a city just getting acquainted with the idea of being European, where no one's surprised if a carriage or a herd of sheep is blocking the busiest motorways.

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A woman having a flat tire on her carriage, waiting for someone fetching her a new one. In the poorer regions of Romania you will still find some horse drawn carriages blocking roads, but not in Bucharest.

Women making soap out of animal fat and washing soda in a barrel.

Football fans eating sunflower seeds and chatting away on their phones while waiting for the game to start at the Rapid Stadium, Bucharest.

A lot of historical churches in Bucharest were demolished to make room for socialist building projects. This one was saved.

Commuters climbing on a truck to get around the city – the same trucks are now being used by the riot police in Bucharest.

A lavish wedding in early 90s Romania. The American car was a rental limo.

One of Romania's oldest seafood restaurants bought a giant beluga and placed it in front of the shop resting on a bed of ice cubes, to show it sold fresh fish.

Bucharest's Old Town, which was a mix of illegally occupied buildings, weird shops and shady pubs in the 90s. It's now home to expensive clubs, hotels and department stores.

Women selling sunflower seeds near a busy marketplace.

A vendor taking a break behind his stall while sat on a melon.

A traffic jam in northern Bucharest caused by heavy rains. Most people were still driving Dacias in the 90s – a Romanian communist reproduction of an old Renault model.

Cemetery for the Heroes of the Revolution, Bucharest. Mostly young people lost their lives in the revolution overthrowing the communist regime in 1989.