Today, many of the cities of the Central Asian Stans are defined by a new “trophy city” architecture meant to reflect modernity and progress, and to glorify the leaders who planned them. Look a bit deeper, though, and many signs of the Soviet past are still there in the architecture and layout of the cities.

The Soviet elements of the cities are not just manifested in wide avenues and drab apartment blocks, but also in the vast murals and mosaics that adorn many buildings. The heritage comes from both the ideological drive of the Soviet state, but also a belief in inspiring citizens with beautiful everyday surroundings.

The first Soviet mosaics appeared in the 1930s, adorning the grand Stalinist neo-classical train stations, theatres and the stations of the Moscow metro. It then fell out of fashion in the 1950s under Nikita Khrushchev, but the monumentalist art aesthetic reappeared under Leonid Brezhnev in the late 1960s and 1970s. This was when most of the art appeared in Central Asian cities. Read more