The post-Soviet architecture of Ukraine is a complex and often fraught subject we’ve frequently explored on this site. Kyiv’s Osnovy Publishing is at the forefront of documenting the Soviet architectural legacy, as well as its newfound vernacular architecture, via numerous books that illustrate the patchwork approach to building and city planning in Ukraine since 1990. Its Chic series in particular – which began with 2019’s Balcony Chic, and now continues with Orthodox Chic – offers a deadpan view of the motley, often improvised constructions that define the modern Ukrainian cityscape.
THERE ARE FEW European architectural legacies more fraught than that of Soviet-era structures in the former USSR, and few places where this legacy is more divisive than Ukraine. In the decades since the dissolution of the USSR, Ukraine’s Soviet past – which, even apart from the devastation wrought by the Nazis, includes tragedies such as Stalin’s genocidal holodomor and the Chernobyl disaster – has remained a wound that refuses to heal. More recently, Russia’s 2014 annexation/occupation of Crimea and Donbass further inflamed tensions between Kiev and Moscow, and ensured the debate over the Soviet legacy in Ukraine would be poisoned for years to come.
CHERNOBYL: A STALKER’S GUIDE, new from Darmon Richter and FUEL Publishing, is an impressive hybrid: part travelogue, part memoir, part essay. The book weaves together numerous strands of history, mythology, and ecology that intersect at Chernobyl, ranging from Prometheus as an atomic Marxist saint to pop-cultural references like the Fallout games and HBO’s Chernobyl to mushrooms as a potential solution nuclear waste solution. Richter, who has spent decades exploring and writing about what he calls “ideological architecture” (which often, but by no means always, focuses on Communist-era buildings) does an impressive job of unifying these numerous trajectories, resulting in a highly focused and immensely readable study of a fundamentally misunderstood place.
IN UKRAINIAN RAILROAD LADIES, photographer Sasha Maslov documents the female workers of Ukraine’s national railway system in photographs that are both exquisitely arranged and highly personal. While brightly-colored uniforms serve as the initial focus, offering a vivid palette of Soviet-era contrasting pastels, the women themselves shine through as the true subjects, standing proudly against an equally-colorful array of backdrops.
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.
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.