ERICMICHAELJOHNSON
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The Afghan Syndrome

 

This body of work explores the relationship between healing traditions and collective identity. 

I created the series The Afghan Syndrome to reflect on the legacy of war and call into question the concept of healing. In May of 2011, almost one decade into the United States' war in Afghanistan, I visited one of Russia's veteran treatment facilities, otherwise known as sanatoriums. Between 1979 and 1989, the former Soviet Union fought a war in Afghanistan, leaving tens of thousands of troops wounded, similar to the United States today. Drawn by this parallel, I was curious as to what veteran treatment looks like 20 years after a conflict has ended. Originally opened as a VIP resort for top Communist Party functionaries, the sanatorium, called "Rus" near Moscow, now serves as a treatment facility for Russian veterans of the Afghanistan and Chechnya wars. The transformation began in 1989, the same year the Soviet Union withdrew its troops from Afghanistan. Ownership was completed in 1991 by the Russian Association of Veterans Disabled During the War in Afghanistan. Sanatoriums were established as medical facilities for long-term illness, most typically associated with treatment of tuberculosis. Today, this facility provides physical, psychological and social services to both veterans and their families. In addition, the sanatorium provides alternative treatments for those who cannot use certain medications because of their illness, for example, hirudotherapy or leech therapy, acupuncture, dry carbonic acid gas bath, electropuncture diagnostics and bioresonance therapy. At the time of my visit, the facility hosted 250 patients, most of whom suffered their injuries more than 20 years ago.

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