For some communist monuments of Eastern Europe, the time has stopped in 1989, when the Soviet Union started its gradual collapse. While urban and social fabrics adapted to regime changes, these frozen-in-time buildings struggled to withstand the shift, eventually surrendering to total neglect. Regardless of whether they were built to honor the totalitarian regime or not, they all mummified into silent icons of the communist utopia.

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As their crumbling structures are only governed by the unpredictable laws of nature and time, these monuments are regaining public attention, especially with the rise of ruins exploration. Today, local authorities are presented with great opportunities for tourism, urban renewal, and preservation of these buildings. However, they have little to no time to act as the rapidly deteriorating state of some is alarming.

Below are 5 exceptional communist structures that are under threat:

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1. Buzludzha, Bulgaria

The Buzludzha monument, also known as Bulgaria’s UFO, was once the most emblematic monument honoring the communist movement in the country. Designed by Gueorguy Stoilov on the edge of the Balkan Mountains, this elegant monstrosity was commissioned in 1974 when the soviet regime seemed unshakeable.

With an estimation of 35 million dollars in cost and 5 years in the making, it is hard to believe that less than a decade after its construction, the building fell into total abandonment with the regime’s downfall. The elevated dome, with its exquisite interiors of marble and mosaics, served once as a luxurious venue for state celebrations and events. Today, as the roof is under the risk of falling, tourists are no longer allowed into the hall and are left to admire this brutalist paragon from the outside.

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View from stairs ©bulgaria-communismtours.com
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View from mountain ©www.pinterest.com
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Interior Hall ©thespaces.com

2. The pyramid of Tirana, Albania

Originally built in honor of the Albanian leader, Enver Hoxha, the pyramid of Tirana succeeded in staying functional for a couple of years after the country’s embrace of democracy. From a mausoleum for the socialists to a nightclub for the Albanian youth, this building certainly evokes different memories for the locals; however, most agree on keeping this piece of their past preserved. Along with its historical significance, the building conveys a unique archetype of the 1980s. Linear windows and lack of vertical walls, the design was meticulous in filling the interiors with abundant light and drawing the attention at the center of the circular pyramid, where the dictator’s statue used to stand.

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Revolving ownership and lack of maintenance have led to its desolate atmosphere and pushed the government into voting its demolition in 2010. Public debates and protests have sprung ever since, to save the building from demolition. Recently, a new proposal was presented by the Danish architectural firm MVRDV, to turn the building into a new center for technology and culture.

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Entrance ©www.researchgate.net
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Aerial view ©www.bloomberg.com
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Close up ©www.nytimes.com

3. Chisinau State circus, Moldova

Outliving the Soviet Union by 13 years, this brutalist monument kept its activity till 2004 when it shut down for maintenance and hasn’t operated since. But what kept this circus going during the economic downfall of the 1990s, was the inseparable bond between performing arts and the Moldavian culture. Built-in 1981, the monument was designed as a simple but bold and daring structure, rendering the USSR’s pride in circus tradition.

Conveying the socialist-style as the most dramatic with its marble finishes and lighting fixtures, the circus was able to fit up to 19,000 spectators. Besides that, the 13-meter-wide ring was covered by a detachable dome, hence preparing it for summer performances. Sixteen years after its closure, the dilapidated building may not be dead yet but have deeply fallen into oblivion.

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Interior stairs ©www.atlasobscura.com
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Interiors ©willyblanchard.ch

4. The western city gate, Serbia

Visible all the way from the airport, the 36- story skyscraper was designed by Mihajlo Mitrović in 1977, with the aim of dominating Belgrade’s skyline. A two-story bridge connected the two separately functioning towers, while a revolving restaurant was established at the top. In spite of the tallest tower still hosting residents to this day, the other tour is in disrepair after being evacuated by the Genex Company.

The brutalist building, marginalized once as a ‘commie structure’, is undeniably one of the most symbolic buildings in Belgrade today. However, it is still desperate to get back into activity as it suffers from the lack of bidders interested in investing in the long-neglected structure.

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View from below ©www.greyscape.com
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Close up ©www.kathmanduandbeyond.com

5. The Romanita collective housing tower, Moldova

Due to the housing crisis of the 1970s, local authorities decided on building a collective housing tower for small families. Originally part of a larger compound, the 22 stories building ended up being the only part of the plan to be constructed. The cylindrical shape of the building was due to its great innovative design of “unit as a console”. While its design and construction started in 1978, it took almost 8 years to finish it. However, the building stands to this day a structural triumph of the 1970s.

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Romania’s first four floors were dedicated to common services while the rest of the floors were collective living units until the 1990s. After that, the units became privatized by the owners, turning them into residential apartments. But that did not help in adapting the socialist composition into the modern-day living standards.

Nowadays, even with people inhabiting its unsuitable environment, Romanita is in an evolved state of decay and neglect, presenting yet another example of an architectural opportunity gone to waste.

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Close up ©socialistmodernism.com
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Ground Floor ©urbanicagroup.ro
Author

Creative at heart, Joelle is currently completing her Master of Architecture in Beirut. Joining curiosity with her love for wandering, she is usually drawnto philosophy and travel to find answers and expand her knowledge. She is currently intrigued by the way humans experience cities, so you might find her Instagram filling with shots of her urban explorations.

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