Specters of Socialist Architecture

Secluded by the Iron Curtain, the Soviet Union was engineering its own version ofthe modern individual. As Caroline Humphrey writes, “...the fantasy of the socialistinfrastructure acquired an overdetermining quality in the Soviet Union in conjunctionwith the grand industrialization and collectivization programs of the mid-twentiethcentury”1 . Wide scale urbanization was one of the most common practices oftransformation towards the homogenization of socialist everyday life. Theinfrastructure of urban architecture played a crucial role in this process. The idea ofusing a residential area for ideological goals was notably prevalent during theKhrushchev era, when the intensive union-wide apartment building program began.As Florian Urban points out, political, ideological, social, economic and eventechnological aspects of architecture were standardized across the Soviet Union inthe 1950s and the 1960s 2. With the advent of large panel prefabricated blockhousebuilding technology, the housing projects were gradually carried out in every republicof the USSR and thus the urban unification of Soviet everyday life influenced largepopulations.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union the socialist housing projects no longerperformed their primary ideological function. Some of them still accommodatemillions of people, some rest in a desolate state, some have changed their profile toadapt to capitalist realities. Stripped of its ideological frame, the specter of thesocialist architecture nevertheless retains its influence on the geographic, social andcultural landscape of post-socialist life.With the shift to capitalist system conceptslike development and gentrification have entered the vocabularies of urbandevelopment. Today, the hybrid views towards architecture entangling politicalcontexts, ecological consciousness, and economic progress of the region are oftenco-coexisting. The video artworks by Krassimir Terziev (Bulgaria), SophiaTabatadze (Georgia), Ieva Epnere (Latvia), fantastic little splash (Ukraine), andFlo Kasearu (Estonia) featured in this part of the program focus on the Sovietarchitectural infrastructure and its implications on the environment, as well asimaginations of its potential futures.

1  Humphrey, “Ideology in Infrastructure: Architecture and Soviet Imagination.” Journal of the RoyalAnthropological Institute, 11/1, 2005: 39

2  Urban, “Prefab Russia”, Docomomo Journal, 39, 2008: 18-22.

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The Flood (Ivar Veermäe, 2018)