Journey across the towns and great cities of the USSR with architecture critic Owen Hatherley at the launch of his new book The Adventures of Owen Hatherley in the Post-Soviet Space (Repeater Books).
Owen Hatherley — “one of our most provocative voices on culture and architecture today” (Owen Jones) — will be in conversation with Sam Goff of The Calvert Journal about his journey across 11 former Soviet countries and the search for the remnants of revolutions, utopias, Communism, and alternatives to how we build cities today.
About the book
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was a place that really existed, but it is long dead. By now, the word “Soviet” should be as meaningless as “Hapsburg”. Yet it endures, as in the wave of de-communisation in Ukraine or the strange idea that the capitalist government in Russia is “Communist”. But does the Soviet experience have anything to teach us today, or was it just an enormous cul-de-sac, a nuclear-armed reincarnation of the Russian Empire? This book tries to find out, through walking the towns and great cities of the USSR, in an itinerary that goes from the Baltic to Belarus, from Ukraine to the Urals, from the Caucasus to Central Asia, in places ranging from utopian colonies of the Twenties, to nuclear new towns of the Fifties, to gleaming new capitals of the twenty-first century.
Travelling across eleven of the fifteen countries that once made up the Soviet Union, this book searches for the remnants of revolutions both distant and recent and for the continuities with the Communist idea. Instead of a wistful journey through ruins, this is a Marxist Humanist account of how cities and their inhabitants have tried to cope both with the end of a socialist dream and the failure of capitalism to fulfill its own promises. In this patchwork of EU democracies, neoliberal dictatorships and Soviet nostalgic enclaves (often found in the same countries) we might just find the outlines of a way of building and living in cities that is a powerful alternative, both in the past and present.
“An engrossing and beautifully written book. No one else writes so clearly yet with such elegiac intensity about the symbiosis that exists between history and the built environment, or the lives that are caught, mangled and realised in its midst.” – Lynsey Hanley, author of Estates: An Intimate History
About the author
Owen Hatherley writes regularly on aesthetics and politics for, among others, the Architectural Review, The Calvert Journal, Dezeen, the Guardian, Jacobin, the London Review of Books and New Humanist. He is the author of several books, including Landscapes of Communism (Penguin, 2015), The Ministry of Nostalgia (Verso, 2016), The Chaplin Machine (Pluto, 2016), and Trans-Europe Express (Penguin, 2018).
About the publisher
Repeater Books is dedicated to the creation of a new reality. The landscape of twenty-first-century arts and letters is faded and inert, riven by fashionable cynicism, egotistical self-reference and a nostalgia for the recent past. Repeater intends to add its voice to those movements that wish to enter history and assert control over its currents, gathering together scattered and isolated voices with those who have already called for an escape from Capitalist Realism. Our desire is to publish in every sphere and genre, combining vigorous dissent and a pragmatic willingness to succeed where messianic abstraction and quiescent co-option have stalled: abstention is not an option: we are alive and we don’t agree.
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