Everybody who is even slightly familiar with Russia has learned to consider Lenin monuments a common sight. The legal successor of the USSR has just over 1,100 towns and cities and approximately 6,000 Lenin monuments. On the contrary, pretty much everybody would stare at one in Germany with much surprise.
The universe of early Soviet children’s literature is now accessible thanks to a digitilized collection of Princeton University Library, opening a world of absurd humour and dry moralism.
“Their mistake is our opportunity to show people what they did”. William Dunbar uncovers the grim history of 22 Ingorokva Street, Tbilisi’s former Bolshevik secret police prison. The only tangible link with the Red Terror in Tbilisi today, Number 22 might soon be replaced by a modern apartment block. One former resident can save it: Giorgi Margvelashvili, Georgia’s president.
On her trip to Murmansk, RETROGRAD editor Johanna Pruessing came across a rare nuclear fossil: “Lenin”, the iceabreaker. Although significantly stronger than their fuel-powered counterparts, nuclear icebreakers were a unique Soviet invention built to cross the Arctic water’s in the North of Siberia.
Noisy, flashing, funky arcade machines to entertain workers? Surely not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the USSR during the Cold War era…
Masha Poluektova is a contemporary artist based in Moscow. Her work has been featured in the city’s Biennial of Contemporary Art (2015), and its Biennial for Young Artists (2014), and this week will be exhibiting in London as part of a group show entitled ‘Between the Lines’. Curated by Stanislav Shuripa, the show is a collaboration between London’s Goldsmiths College and Moscow’s Institute for Contemporary Art and was preceded by a summer school in Russia last year. RETROGRAD talks to her about her work and contemporary art in Russia.
RETROGRAD is looking for information on a seemingly forgotten concrete superstructure on Kostava Street, Tbilisi. All we know so far is that it currently hosts a casino (“Europe”) and – rumour has it – that “they sell good frozen pelmeni there”. Nothing definite is known about its past – a google search for “brutalism” and “Tbilisi” reveals little more than a photograph with the caption “example of brutalism in Tbilisi, Georgia (sorry i dont know name of building)”.
Can street art act as alternative historical markers to re-imagine the past (and future) of our cities’ spaces, buildings and inhabitants?
Across Eastern Europe in the middle of the 20th century architects and planners were imagining, planning and constructing their ideal of a socialist city. Novi Beograd (or New Belgrade), strategically designed as the capital of the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, is one such example.
After accidently stumbling upon a former Red Army camp in an East German forest, Johanna Pruessing learns how history can easily fall into oblivion: either because its legacy is actively eradicated and reversed, or because it is left to decay.
‘With all its tragic implications, war has made the residents of Mariupol reconsider their position in the world and their relation to the city, maybe for the first time since the end of the Soviet dream’. Article and photos by Anna Balazs.
“No pictures!” indicated the man pointing wildly through the window of the central post office in Skopje. Andrea Peinhopf could not be bothered. This, and more brutalist impressions from the Macedonian capital.
Following her article on the history of Tbilisi zoo, Angela Wheeler explores another major site that was struck by the devastating flood this June: Tbilisi’s Heroes’ Square.
Summer is finally here! To celebrate, this week RETROGRAD visited Moscow to check out the nostalgic new packaging for Gorky Park’s famous Soviet-era ice cream.
Angela Wheeler traces the history of Tbilisi Zoo, from Soviet cultural attraction to the focus of the recent flooding disaster, and looks at why it has been allowed to operate in its present location for so long.
The Stalin Museum in Gori, Georgia is not just a museum. It is a site of heated polemics about Stalin’s significance and legacy in the world today. Nowhere is this more evident than in the museum’s visitors’ book.
Erekle Koplatadze explores Gori’s controversial Stalin Museum and asks what its place is in modern-day Georgia.
Susanne Fehlings explores the almost forgotten constructivist heritage of Yerevan’s former working class district.
Zsofia Cassidy looks at Hungary’s moral economy of jam and the tradition of stewing fruit and vegetables kept alive by the older generations to this day.
Is the post-Soviet city experiencing a colour revolution? The socialist city was never quite as ‘grey’ as we imagine, Georgia Wells explains.
Caroline Trotman explores the past, present and alternative futures of Buzludzha, Bulgaria’s most famous communist-era monument.
In this week’s contribution, Zulaika Esentaeva describes the transformation of her hometown Balykchi – the Detroit of Kyrgyzstan.