THE FIRST GUIDE of its kind, Chechnya and North Caucasus: An Architectural Guidebook explores the diverse architecture of one of the former Soviet Union’s least-explored regions. The seven independent republics and two Russian territories that make up the relatively small North Caucasus region represent an incredible array of languages, cultures, religions, and traditions, and offer a correspondingly broad range of architectural highlights, from modernism and brutalism to traditional and Islamic-inspired hybrids.
PHOTOGRAPHER ARSENIY KOTOV takes a hands-on, boots-on-the-ground approach to photographing his home country. His new book, Soviet Seasons, is the result of traveling vast distances across Russia and the former USSR, with the goal of showing “how beautiful and diverse are the cities and nature of this vast region at different times of the year.” For those outside the former Soviet Union, who could perhaps be forgiven for reducing its seasons to either “snow” or “not snow” with each spanning about half the year, the book reveals wonderful gradients of weather, vegetation, and daylight that accompany seasonal change in various regions.
IN THE MONTHS and years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, countless Communist-era monuments and statues have been toppled, dynamited, or otherwise destroyed. The process continues today, and is particularly accelerated in former Soviet states such as Ukraine, where clashes between pro-Russian activists and Ukranian nationalists often center around (literal) concrete representations of the country’s former occupier.
THE POZNAŃ-BASED publisher Zupagrafika documents Brutalist, prefab, and other concrete structures throughout Europe, focusing on their minimalist patterns and colorful flourishes. Their newest volume, Concrete Siberia, is a companion to last year’s Eastern Blocks (see our review here), focusing on Russia’s vast far north.
AT THE CENTER of the Venn Diagram of Brutalist architecture, spa culture and Communist kitsch lies the Soviet sanatorium. In its heyday, the USSR had a network of hundreds of such centers across dozens of territories, from Estonia to Kazakhstan to the Russian Far East. Though their roots lie in the Russian tradition of curative baths, the sanatoriums of the 20th century shoehorned nicely into Soviet ideals of health and responsible rejuvenation, with workers encouraged to check themselves in yearly for a tune-up of their corporal machinery.
THE ROOTS OF Russian Cosmism lie in the transcendental utopian writings of the 19th-century philosopher Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov, who advocated for, among other things, the exploration of space and a literal overcoming of death. Inextricably tied to the Russian Revolution and the rise of the USSR, Cosmism promoted broad ideals that mirrored the heart of Communism: that humanity should collectively strive to transcend the petty, temporary, and mundane.
THIS BRUTAL WORLD, a catalog of worldwide Brutalist architecture, presents its starkly beautiful black-and-white photos as both a treatise and a love letter. The book’s author, Peter Chadwick, falls resolutely and joyously on the side of Brutalism as an egalitarian, economically progressive, and fundamentally global movement.
DURING THE FINAL decades of the Soviet Union, architects found themselves freer to create unconventional structures than at any point in the country’s history. This was particularly true in the republics outside Russia, where, while cursory tributes still had to be paid to overarching socialist ideals, the structures themselves took on a dizzying array of forms.