The fall of the U.S.S.R. in 1991 left the landscapes of Russia and former Soviet satellites with no shortage of oddball architecture. As the generally agreed-upon wisdom goes, it was a time when grand construction projects were used to spearhead national rebranding efforts, when the modernist and brutalist sensibilities that had held sway in these countries embraced a kind of ostentatious, pro-capitalist glitz. For the last decade, Moscow-based photographer Frank Herfort has been documenting the current state of these buildings, and his images were recently compiled and released in a book titled Imperial Pomp, published by Kerber Verlag. Focusing on Moscow and the city of Astana, in Kazakhstan, Herfort's work tells the story of a "unique time," as he explained to Wired. "They wanted to show the world who they are," and ended up with cityscapes akin to "a stage where someone put in these big decorations."
Naturally, not all of these projects lived up to the grandiose expectations upon which they were founded. Herfort relates the story of the Triumph Astana in Kazakhstan, a huge, castle-like apartment building that's still largely vacant, as the rent is too expensive for most Kazakhs. In the foreground, Herfort makes sure to showcase a sprawl of decidedly less glamorous buildings where people actually live.
Still, Herfort and many others find a bizarre beauty in this kind of high-reaching mega-development; for him, they even provoke a bit of preemptive nostalgia. "This moment it is already over," he says. "So the future of Russia will look like everywhere in the world."