Built under Stalin and the USSR’s later leaders, Soviet sanatoriums were a place for workers to holiday courtesy of a state-funded voucher system. Conceived in the 1920s, millions of natives would travel to what are now considered architectural wonders — a combination of medical institution and spa where visitors could reinvigorate, ready to return to exacting communist work with newfound energy.
Monitored by health professionals throughout the stay, a sanatorium break would include specialist treatments like crude-oil baths, radon water douches and stints in underground salt caves, various sanatoriums becoming renowned for the unconventional care they provided; each a breathtaking example of utopian thinking. A leftover from Soviet times that is steeped in rare charm.
Whilst some of the centres now reside in terrible states of decline, many still operate offering a suite of Soviet-era treatments to guests — something Maryam Omidi explores in the FUEL-published book, Holidays in Soviet Sanatoriums. Documenting over forty sanatoriums from Armenia to Uzbekistan, journey with Omidi as she uncovers the rather unorthodox treatments left behind by this oft-overlooked Soviet institution — magnetic sand believed to alleviate a ailments related to the heart, blood, circulation, joints and bones; crude-oil that can ‘heal neurological diseases, skin conditions and impotence’ … the times may have changed, the curiosities have not.
With photography by Claudine Doury; René Fietzek; Olya Ivanova; Natalia Kupriyanova; Dmitry Lookianov; Egor Rogalev; Vladimir Shipotilnikov; and Michal Solarski, Maryam Omidi’s Holidays in Soviet Sanatoriums is available now from FUEL.