A guide to the New East
Photography

Spa town: capturing the faded glory of a once grand Soviet-era sanatorium

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    View from balcony of sanatorium Metallurg

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    Sanatorium Ordzhonikidze

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    In the kitchen of Sanatorium Metallurg, Sochi (2009)

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    Swimmingpool in Metallurg

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    Nurse Viktoria Vasilevna, 47

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    New apartment building next to Metallurg, Sochi, Russia (2009)

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    Sanatorium Ordzhonikidze

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    Sanantorium Metallurg’s curing equipment

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    Mikhail from Murmansk

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    Nurse Ljudmilla before dinner

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    Postcard from Sochi

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    Dima gets treatment for his burns, Matsesta, Sochi region (2009)

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    Sanatorium Ordzhonikidze

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    Metallurg on Kurortny Prospekt is one of Sochi’s most famous sanitorums. Built to accommodate metalworkers, it is located next to the enormous Red Army sanatorium and Ordzhonikidze, the sanatorium for miners. Postcard of Sochi, Russia from the Eighties

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    Nurse Olga Nikolayevna

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    Matsesta healing spa

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The coastal strip on the Black Sea around Sochi has for decades been famous for its sanatoriums. During the Soviet era, millions of workers were sent to stay there annually to revive their spirits and strengthen their bodies. Today, the sanatoriums are still fully booked year round mostly with elderly or disabled Russians. In the run-up to the Winter Olympics, almost all the sanatoriums were converted into luxury hotels. For the book Sanatorium, photographer Rob Hornstra, and writer and filmmaker Arnold van Bruggen spent two weeks in the grand but fading Stalin-era spa, Sanatorium Metallurg. Sanatorium was the first chapter of the Sochi Project, in which Hornstra and Van Bruggen set out to document the region around Olympic Sochi. In total they produced nine publications covering several regions and themes, from a book on wrestling in the North Caucasus to an elaborate study on Abkhazia. Sanatorium covers old, Soviet Sochi, the Sochi which seemed about to disappear thanks to the Games. Determined to describe the processes of an old institution from inside out, the pair checked into Metallurg to discover the resort frantically trying to update its interiors in time for the Games, the sales manager driving to the nearest IKEA in Krasnodar to get new beds and cupboards every month. To immerse themselves in the full restorative experience, Hornstra faked a backache and a sore knee and Van Bruggen pretended to suffer from heart problems. From morning massages to evening discos, nightly vodkas and three sour cream-loaded dinners a day, they emerged a fortnight later a little heavier and a little less fit and healthy. This is their view from the treatment rooms.

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