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Photo Essay: Finding Beauty in Chernobyl’s Decay

Chernobyl’s rapid return to nature puts humanity’s impermanence into perspective. There’s beauty to be found in humanity’s absence...

The Last Guard - In 1991, Ukraine had more than 5,500 statues of Lenin — a greater density than in any other part of the former Soviet Union. In the last 20 years, the Ukrainian government has instituted decommunisation or ‘Lenin-fall’, making communist symbols illegal. Today, the only remaining statue of Lenin in Ukraine stands guard at the entrance to Pripyat.

The Russian Woodpecker - The giant Duga radar tower, nicknamed ‘The Russian Woodpecker’, was an early warning radar hidden deep in the forest near Chernobyl. With fake signs to disguise its presence, it was a closely guarded secret. Once one of the most powerful military facilities in the Soviet Union, this colossal structure stands 150 metres high and ¾ of a kilometre long. It was abandoned following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

A Shining City -  Founded in 1970, Pripyat was a planned city of 49,000. It was built quickly for the Chernobyl workers and their families. It had 10 shooting galleries, two stadiums, two cultural palaces, a cinema, a school of arts, and 18,136 trees, 33,000 rose plants, 249,247 shrubs.

Sunrise Aisles - “Voshod” meaning Sunrise was one of the first modern supermarkets in Ukraine. It was rumoured to be the only place in Ukraine where Chanel No.5 was sold.

Through the Looking Glass -  A kaleidoscope of colour at the entrance to Pripyat cinema. Artists in the USSR had trouble earning a living unless they joined the state-mandated Union of Artists. This union funded and controlled all aspects of artistic life, most importantly the subject of their artwork - idealised visions of Soviet life that promoted communist ideology.

One Day Only - The Pripyat Amusement Park was due to open for May Day celebrations in 1986. It was open for just one day: April 27, 1986 - the day after the Chernobyl disaster, before the announcement to evacuate the Pripyat was made.

Ghost Hotel - Built in the 1970s, senior party officials, high profile delegations, and other visitors to Chernobyl stayed at the Polissya Hotel. After the Chernobyl meltdown, the hotel was used as a command post for operations and clean-up. With a direct view of Chernobyl, spotters stood on the hotel roof and by radio guided helicopters dropping sacks of sand into the inferno reactor fire. 

Frozen in Time - Up to 600,000 civil and military personnel, known as ‘liquidators’, took part in the Chernobyl clean-up. The liquidators hosed down streets, fell trees, and went from apartment to apartment killing the pets of evacuated residents. More than 30 years on, posters in apartments and public buildings remain. 

Shop our Ukrainian posters below or explore the collection hereComrade Kiev also creates sustainable, ethical, design-led tours to the most incredible places on earth. We’ve built close relationships with local guides, and will work with you to create an extraordinary trip which fits your budget, timeline and interests. Follow in the footsteps of legendary polar explorers, climb smoking volcanoes in the remote Far East, or cross the endless Gobi desert on camelback. We’ll take you there. We’ll get you closer. Explore our tours.

Peaceful Skies For Children of the Earth | Ukraine | 1986£300.00
Drug Addiction is Suicide | Ukraine | 1988£1,250.00
Cleopatra | Ukraine | 1963£150.00
List of all posters

Further Reading

culture

The eagle has landed: Hunting with the last eagle hunters in Kyrgyzstan

High above the southern shore of Issyk-Kul lake, in east Kyrgyzstan, we wait and watch for movement on the rocky hillside below. Movement means prey. And that means that the hunt is on. For centuries, the nomadic people of Central Asia have used eagles to hunt for food and fur. On one a freezing morning in December, I went hunting with Nur-Sultan, Kyrgyzstan’s most famous eagle hunter.

architecture

Castles & Controversy: Inside Turkey's $200m Abandoned Town

A few hours drive from Istanbul is a remote valley with soft rolling slopes that is surrounded by woodland. What sets it apart from other valleys in the area, is the hundreds of identical chateaus. More than 500 palatial homes sit abandoned on a 250 acre site. I have a deep interest in the Soviet Union and abandoned places. While this town isn’t Soviet, it’s too bizarre to not write about.

travel

The Land of Fire: The Do’s and Don'ts in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan, the land of fire and authoritarianism. Azerbaijan literally translates to ‘protector of fire’, while the textbook definition of authoritarianism is its ‘president’, Ilham Aliyev. I spent three weeks in Azerbaijan, which was probably two weeks too many. Here is my list of places to visit...and avoid.

culture

Soviet Sanatoriums: The Crumbling Remains of Tskaltubo, Georgia

In the USSR, a spa weekend wasn’t a pampered holiday. It was a requisite, prescribed by the Soviet state. In their heyday, millions of citizens across the Soviet Union visited sanatoriums each year, on an all expenses retreat paid for by the state. Today these icons of communism are crumbling, in varying states of decay, with just a few still welcoming guests.

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