Before and after: metamorphoses of Soviet architecture

A hotel in Romania, before and after the reconstruction

A hotel in Romania, before and after the reconstruction 

Analysis & Opinion

Soviet architecture is notorious for its unappealing, monotonous appearance. The standardized multi-apartment blocks were designed for a classless society of workers, and the architecture was as featureless and unindividualistic as the presumed ideal communist citizen was envisioned to be – a perfect cog in the machine. Moreover, beautifications and architectural details of all sorts were declared remnants of the bourgeoise past and found to be unfit in the society of comrades.

After the fall of the USSR, countries of the Eastern bloc developed their own approaches to renovating or redesigning its socialist architecture. Ukraine is only starting to tread this path. Blogger Alex Shutyuk gathered some examples of transformations of Soviet (and not only) architecture in different countries. We offer a selection of them.

Bratislava, Slovakia

Talinn, Estonia

Krakow, Poland

Warsaw, Poland

Lodz, Poland


Berlin, Germany

Freiburg, Germany

Hamburg, Germany

Saragosa, Spain

Renn, France


Kyiv, Ukraine

Vinnytsia, Ukraine

Rivne, Ukraine

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  • zorbatheturk

    A Soviet should not be allowed anywhere near a cement mixer.

  • Nowhere Girl

    I remember when I first had a real opportunity to see Soviet blocks in abundance, in Tallinn. I love a special form of tourism: visiting ski jumping hills and so once I planned, for me and my mother, a two-week holiday in the Baltic countries and Finland, including 39 ski jumping hills and other interesting places such as museums or nature reserves (Alam-Pedja reserve in Estonia is very much worth visiting). So first we took the bus and there were those horrible grey blocks all around and then we got to the hill… unfortunately it wasn’t possible to climb the biggest one, but the medium-sized hill also offered a great view. There was the sea far in the distance, with a tiny silhouette of St. Olav’s Church (once, somewhere in the 17th century, the tallest building in the world), there were some woods, and in between – this sea of grey Soviet blocks…
    I live in a “panelak” too, albeit its more sophisticated version – Ursynow in Warsaw was built in generally the same “panelak” technology, but the individual blocks are much more diversified, the whole district was built with forethought so that it would look nice, functional and clean. The architect, prof. Marek Budzynski, for example consciously divided the whole district into smaller areas surrounded by streets, but without no vehicles allowed inside these areas – so that each such small area would have a primary school and the youngest schoolchildren would be able to go to school without crossing a street. And in Tallinn I first had an opportunity to see how bad these blocks could look like in their worst version…