The last resort: Inside the USSR's futuristic sanatoriums
"During the days of Soviet Union, rest was seen as purposeful," says writer Maryam Omidi. "The aim was to recover from working hard throughout the year so that you could return refreshed and productive."
To revive its tired workforce, the Kremlin constructed hundreds of sanatoriums across the country, where workers could spend their state-funded two week vacation relaxing.
Twenty-five years after the collapse of the USSR, many of these sanatoriums are still in use as health resorts, while others have been left to languish and ruin. Omidi has launched a Kickstarter campaign to create a book documenting these monuments -- and their afterlives.
She tells us more about the project:
In what ways were these buildings a playground for Soviet architects?
The Soviets were proud of their philosophy towards rest and leisure, believing it to be an integral part of socialism. As such, sanatoriums were seen as showpieces that could display Soviet superiority to attitudes in the west, where holidays were a time to engage in pleasurable activities with a focus on material rather than spiritual gain.
This gave architects the green light to be as bold and ostentatious as they desired, regardless of cost. The range of styles coincides with architectural trends throughout the Soviet era, from Neo-classicism to Constructivism to Brutalism.
You've stayed at several sanatoriums yourself: did you partake in any of the more 'unusual' health treatments on offer?
The strangest treatment I've had is a carbon dioxide bath, which is apparently a 'cure' for everything from infertility to depression... It involved getting into a body-sized plastic bag which was then tightened around my neck and pumped up with carbon dioxide. This was at Ai Petri where they also had leech therapy, oxygen therapy and oxygen foam, which came in a tub and was eaten like ice-cream.