Photos: Exploring Soviet-era sanatoriums

It didn’t occur to me as possible but when Russia was a communist state, some people still went on vacation. The Soviet Union mandated a two-week vacation from 1922 to its fall in 1989, time often spent at sanatoriums.

Soviet-era sanatoriums were like giant health spas, according to Maryam Omidi, who last year traveled through a sanatorium nestled in the mountains on the southern slope of the Gissar Range in Tajikistan.

There she got to know the stunning architecture and met doctors and dietitians who supervise the facility and spend their days relaxing in the sauna, swimming in thermal waters, and sticking to a nutritious diet of moose milk and steamed vegetables.

It was the start of her project “The Last Resort: Strange Beauty of Soviet Sanatoriums.

Sanatorium in Crimea

“I was blown away by the architecture and landscape, the Soviets were proud of their philosophy towards rest and leisure, believing it to be an integral part of socialism. This gave architects the green light to be as bold and ostentatious as they desired, regardless of cost,” Omidi said.

The Last Resort photo book will be put together by a team of six talented photographers – Michal Solarski, Egor Rogalev, Dmitry Lookianov, René Fietzek, Claudine Doury and Olya Ivanova. Midi and the team will travel to sanatoriums from May to September to immerse themselves in these health and relaxation center to explore “the unconventional treatments that they offer and the individual stories of those who visit them.

One of those treatments involves sprinkling radon water between your legs, and putting your body inside a life-sized plastic bag, which some believe is a cure for everything from depression to infertility.

In a matter of weeks the team raised £15,000. When the campaign ended, with the help of 787 backers, Omidi and her team brought in £28,000, almost double their goal.

“This book will be the first to offer a comprehensive collection of photographs and text on Soviet-era sanatoriums, both their history and their afterlives. Soviet-era sanatoriums are not considered buildings of historical significance and as such there is no call to conserve them or renovate them sympathetically. For now, guests can enjoy much of the same decor and the same treatments as guests would have during the Soviet Union. I think it’s probably only a matter of time before they cease to exist in their current form,” she said.

Druzhba sanatorium, Crimea

To follow this project and the photographers visit their Facebook and Instagram. To know more about Maryam Omidi’s Kickstarter campaign click here.

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Sophia Montoya
Sophia Montoya is a photographer based in Tijuana, Mexico. She graduated from Universidad Iberoamericana with a B.A in Communications. She currently works as a music photojournalist under the alias of “Zophie Felina” collaborating with bands and documenting the rock and roll music scene. She is Through the Cracks Spanish translator and contributor.


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