The glorious bus stops of the former USSR, as shot by photographer Peter Ortner

Steve Dinneen
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Even in the often stifling artistic conditions that existed in the outer reaches of the Soviet Union, creativity found a way.

While Soviet architects experimented with startling modernist buildings in Mother Russia, the outposts largely had to settle for endlessly repeating brutalist tower-blocks, each one as punishingly grey as the last. Municipal buildings – and virtually every building was a municipal building – had to adhere to strict utility and cost guidelines, with little room for creativity.

But architects were allowed to scratch their creative itch on smaller-scale projects, leading to the unlikely, but utterly charming, rise of the statement bus stop.

These isolated examples of micro-architecture are scattered across the region, many out in the middle of nowhere, spanning Azerbaijan, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula.

German photographer Peter Ortner travelled for thousands of kilometres taking pictures of them, the most unusual of which he’s collected in a new book entitled Back in the USSR: Soviet Roadside Architecture From Samarkand to Yerevan.

These strange, now dilapidated structures offer tiny insights into the cultures from which they sprang: some recognisably brutalist, others decorated in intricate mosaics or shaped like UFOs and octopuses. They all share a quiet grace, a reminder of a different time and evidence that creativity will find an outlet in even the most extraordinary circumstances.

Back in the USSR Soviet Roadside Architecture from Samarkand to Yerevan by Peter Ortner, published by Jovis, is out now priced €18; jovis.de

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