Arseniy Kotov | Labor, Life & Leisure

Looking at these photographs, glimpsing the warmth leaking from the myriad homes, one gets a sense of life in the Soviet Union

By Balthazar Malevolent

Arseniy Kotov | Labor, Life & Leisure

Born in 1988, just three years before the end of the Soviet Union, Arseniy never knew Soviet rule. His experience of the former Soviet republics, all of which he visited & photographed over a three-year period, is like an exploration of the abandoned shell of the USSR no longer animated by the communist regime. He can see, as he says in his introduction to the book & as readers will discover, that the Soviet Union had great ambitions for the betterment of its people.

Arseniy’s work is not clouded by sentimentality. However, his photographs, many of them taken in the grey & unforgiving dusk or dawn, nonetheless show the range & power & beauty of the Modernist & Soviet architecture. Along with the great buildings of public culture, he photographs the vast housing blocks, their slab-like walls devoid of ornamentation. There is little to distinguish one from another, one city from another is absent.

Perhaps surprisingly, this frank appraisal is not ugly, Arseniy captures an unexpected beauty in these cities & barely differentiated dormitory suburbs, born out of revolution, war & a totalitarian state that exacted from its people a huge price for the USSR to make.

There’s an interesting debate about how we should experience Stalinist & communist architecture. For a niche crowd, it is endlessly fascinating if we are honest, in a very arms-length way, because even if we visit, we aren’t living under Soviet rule. We want to explore the landscape, savor the images, discuss the experiences of the residents of Khrushchyovka but we must have in mind the reality of life in the USSR. It’s not just endless queues for food staples or lack of choice, censorship, corruption, it’s also the effects of polluting & environmentally damaging industries located close to residential areas. For example, when Greyscape visited Nizhny Tagil, a monotown in the heart of the Urals (the expression refers to a city dedicated to one or a narrow group of industries) we were advised not to remain outside for more than 30 minutes.

Arseniy Kotov northern friend photographer

In other news, the Reebok Kamikaze II Nerf Nerfoop, never seen anything quite like it.

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