Post-Soviet city: a special report on the photography of the former eastern bloc

The post-Soviet city is where future and past, ideology and memory clash. Here, five photographers explore the architectural legacy of the eastern bloc, giving their personal take on the lure of the brutalist landscape.

The post-Soviet city is a place where collective memory meets personal nostalgia; where ideology and history collide with the struggle for contemporary identity. As E H Gombrich wrote in The Story of Art, “We can never neatly separate what we see from what we know”, and in this sense, the architectural landscape is at the core of both post-Soviet consciousness and the international image of the new east.

From seemingly soulless concrete blocks and utopian-looking futuristic constructions to adverts and new plexiglass buildings, the photographic study of the post-Soviet city is often based on a personal perspective; the story often lies not in the buildings themselves but in the eye (or camera) of the beholder. In this special report we have decided to give voice to the photographers who are capturing these landscapes that are part-mesmerising, part-alienating, and give them the opportunity to talk about their journey through the post-Soviet city.

Egor Rogalev is capturing suburban edgelands which, no longer charged with utopian ideals, have become kingdoms of isolation. Boris Kralj captures not just Belgrade, but My Belgrade: the city of his childhood transformed by political turmoil and war but still bearing traces of the world long gone. Marco Citron appropriates the aesthetics of old postcards to showcase the strange architectural experiments of former regimes. Alexey Bogolepov studies the towering relics of Soviet municipal structures, transforming them into black and white ghosts that still retain an unsettling power. And Andrej Vasilenko looks at modern Lithuanian identity through the changing face of its capital, Vilnius.

Through all of their stories we seek to explore the post-Soviet city as an artistic as much as a physical space: a space where we go to explore time and history and the ever-changing present day.

Text and interviews: Anastasiia Fedorova