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Photo Essay: An Empty and Endless Kazakhstan

It’s 20 degrees below zero, and our Lada doesn’t give a damn. Our driver and guide, Igor, has a picture of Mary and Jesus stuck to his dashboard, just above the steering wheel. Welcome to winter in Kazakhstan.

Winter wonderland: Equivalent to the size of Western Europe, Kazakhstan is unremittingly flat. It’s empty, endless, and mostly covered in snow.

 

The original caravan: While most Kazakhs have bid farewell to the nomadic life, some still live in  traditional yurts. Yurts is designed to be easy to assemble and disassemble quickly. They’re made from wood, covered with felt and secured by rope. The men make the wooden frames by hand, while the women create  embroidered coverings in traditional patterns.

Grand Canyon of the East: Close to the Chinese border is the Charyn canyon. Wind, water and sand have worn away the sandstone over millions of years to form a canyon almost 100 kilometres in length. From rich red to a deep orange, the colours are the result of lava rocks and sediment deposited by the rivers which once flowed through the canyon.

Signposts to nowhere: Like the Trans-Siberian Railway, the road system was hugely important. Connecting the far reaches of the Soviet empire meant unifying the people. Commissioned by local authorities, signposts were a form of functional propaganda designed to raise morale. “Using limited materials and a prescribed vocabulary of symbols, the anonymous creators of these works strived for originality.” 

Shop our vintage propaganda posters below or explore the collection here.

Comrade Kiev 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.

 

 

Flora | Russia | 1990£600.00
Life Threatening | Lithuania | 1983£450.00
Through Gobi & Khingan | Ukraine | 1981£450.00
List of all posters

Further Reading

architecture

A Top 10 Guide to Armenia’s Best Brutalist & Modernist Buildings

With its concrete clover windows and ornately carved scenes in red stone, the National University of Architecture and Construction is one of the most striking examples of Brutalist architecture in Yerevan. The inside is just as beautiful, although if you wander aimlessly through the halls taking photos, the security guards will come and politely escort you off the premises.

architecture

Knocking on Heaven's Door: Armenia's Abandoned Orgov Telescope

Two hours by car from Yerevan, nestled amongst grazing cattle and the farmers who tend to them, is the abandoned remains of a telescope which once searched for signs of life beyond our world. Space exploration was initially a practical concern: rocket technology solved the problem of sending huge nuclear payloads over long distances. But the Space Race soon evolved into something of much greater symbolic significance.

architecture

Armenia’s Modernist Masterpiece: Lake Sevan Writers Retreat

In the 1930s, the Writers’ Union of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic commissioned a writer's retreat to be built on Sevan Island. Around the time that the retreat first opened to writers, Sevan Island was in the middle of a dramatic transformation. The Soviet state was diverting water from Lake Sevan to irrigate the Ararat plain and generate hydroelectric power. Over the next two decades, the lake’s water level fell by around 20 metres, and Sevan Island became a peninsula.

architecture

Memory Palace: Inside the Abandoned Shymkent Palace of Culture

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.”

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