Everybody Knows This is Nowhere: The Kiev Park of Memory and Post‐Soviet Urbanism in Context


The reappraisal of the post‐Soviet landscape is in danger of overlooking two of its most important elements: firstly, the mass modernist housing that was more extensive here than probably anywhere else; and secondly, the post‐1989 capitalist context of property speculation, office development and decay. These routinely missed landscapes constitute the very things travelled through on the way to utopian, if ruined, monuments, such as those documented in Frédéric Chaubin’s CCCP — Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed. When visited, the surroundings of these structures turn out to be at least as interesting as the photogenic modernist monument itself. This essay is an account of a visit to one of the most architecturally contemporary of these structures — the Park of Memory crematoria in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, designed by Abraham Miletsky in 1974. In Chaubin’s photographs, the curling concrete volumes of the Park’s central crematoria are flamboyant, fantastical and self‐referential, the very ‘iconic’ architecture that many post‐Soviet capitals would like to have in order to attract tourists. There is a lot more going on in the surrounding city than what is typically recorded in its visual representations, however, as discussed in this essay. Such monuments are not mute, and cannot be severed from their surroundings.