Skip to main
artcollectionstravel
Comrade Kyiv
journalimpactabout

architecture

Memory Palace: Inside the Abandoned Shymkent Palace of Culture

Credit: Alex Pflaum

In the early days of the Soviet Union, the Socialist state began building Dvorets Kul'tury (Palaces of Culture) at the heart of many Soviet towns and cities. Decorated with elaborate mosaics, and stained glass windows, almost 140,000 Palaces of Culture were built by the time the USSR collapsed almost 70 years later. Photographer Alex Pflaum recently visited the abandoned Shymkent Palace of Culture to document a rapidly vanishing part of Soviet history.

The palaces functioned primarily as a propaganda platform, a means of amplifying the socialist message of the Soviet state. They housed local congresses and regional divisions of the Communist Party. Members of the Komsomol - the youth wing of the Communist party - would spend months learning patriotic anthems and bylaws by heart before attending a solemn oath swearing ceremony at their regional Palace of Culture. Over time, the palaces evolved to also serve as venues for leisure and culture where faithful Soviet citizens could watch films, theatre, dance, art and literature. 

Credit: Alex Pflaum

By the late 1980s, there were more than 137,000 Palaces of Culture in the Soviet Union. After its collapse, palaces like the Shymkent Palace of Culture fell into disrepair without the financial backing for their upkeep. “Architecture, which is dependent on time and politics, declines and goes into ruins when it does not receive neither material nor spiritual investment.” 

Here are a few more photos from Alex's visit to Shymkent...

Credit: Alex Pflaum

Credit: Alex Pflaum

Credit: Alex Pflaum

 

Built spaces tell us the stories of the civilisations that shaped them. They’re products of their time; windows on the politics of the past. Architecture isn’t just art, it’s anthropology. Architecture Across the Ages takes travellers to some of the most important – and most often overlooked – architectural sites across Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Visit Uzbekistan’s towering turquoise mosques, see how Georgia shook off Soviet rule with cosmic-inspired superstructures, and witness the rebirth of Turkmenistan with its audacious white marble city. Learn more

Be Prepared for Winter | Russia | 1987£350.00
List of all posters

Further Reading

travel

The Trans-Siberian Railroad - The Railroad that Changed the World and Started a War

9,198 kilometres of tracks connect Moscow to the Pacific port of Vladivostok. As the longest railroad in the world, the Trans-Siberian Railway is truly one of humanity’s most impressive engineering feats. But, this symbol of Soviet power has also had an outsized impact on the world at large. Its construction was the catalyst for a war between two superpowers, it transported millions of prisoners to the Gulags, and served as a lifeline during the Second World War.

architecture

A Top 10 Guide to Georgia’s Best Soviet & Modern Architecture

The Sovereign state of the Caucasus – and Stalin’s home nation – Georgia was a critical part of the USSR. In the late 1970s, it stepped out from its Soviet shadow and into a new architectural age. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the ambitious and otherworldly designs became an explicit rebuke of Communism and a sign of Georgia’s struggle towards self-actualisation. Here are ten of my favourite buildings in Georgia.

travel

Exploring Budapest’s Dystopian Underground Water Reservoir

Rising above the banks of Budapest’s Danube river is Gellért Hill, an affluent residential area with elegant tree-lined streets. But, hidden beneath the surface is a strange and surreal sight - the József Gruber Water Reservoir. Every March, it’s emptied for its annual cleaning. With 106 stretched columns, the second basin makes for a futuristic and dystopian landscape.

art

Abandoned Kyrgyzstan: Aalam-Ordo, the Centre of the Universe

Along the southern border of Issyk-Kul lake, Kyrgyzstan, two shining golden gates and 1,500 metre long wall shield a giant hundred hectare complex. I scaled the wall and on the other side, I discovered hundreds of abandoned yurts, an outdoor theatre and a handful of colourful peeling murals. ‘Aalam-Ordo’, which translates as ‘the centre of the universe’, now sits abandoned.

hello@comradekiev.com
+44 7397 297470
london, UK
london, UK
+44 7397 297470
hello@comradekiev.com
We will never sell your personal information. Read our privacy policy.
T&Cs
condition guide
shipping & returns