A guide to the New East

Monotowns: travels to the ends of empire

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The great wave of Soviet industrialisation left Russia with dozens of huge cities but also with a more curious heritage in the form of so-called "monotowns", small provincial towns built to service enormous factory complexes. Today the factories have mostly closed but the towns are still in place, largely forgotten. The Invisible Cities project was set up by seven Russian-based documentary photographers who've dedicated themselves to travelling around the country producing a visual study of these neglected communities. "After the USSR collapsed vast territories of Russia became excluded from the media field and rendered ‘invisible’. The only time these towns gain media visibility is at periods of social or economic turmoil," says one of the founders Ilya Pilipenko. The aim of the project is to show that, even against the expected monotony of these towns, Russia's monotowns retain a unique life and identity of their own.

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