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19th Ave New York, NY 95822, USA
by Ryan Koopmans


During the Soviet Union the Georgian town of Tskaltubo was a popular holiday and health treatment destination. From the 1960s to 1980s, Tskaltubo would receive over 100,000 visitors per year from around the USSR.

Visitors came to revitalize in “sanatoriums,” bathing in radon-carbonate mineral spring water that they believed had healing properties. Twenty-two of these structures were created, built in architectural styles from Soviet-classicism to modernism. When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, the grandiose sanatorium complexes of Tsklatubo were abandoned. Many buildings were hastily deserted as if frozen in time from one day to the next.

In 1992, a separatist conflict erupted in Abkhazia, a region several hundred kilometers north from Tskaltubo. Forced to leave their homes and villages, the thousands of ethnic Georgians who fled Abkhazia were offered temporary shelter in the abandoned sanatorium complexes of Tskaltubo.

Almost 30 years later, hundreds of the same internationally displaced people and their extended families remain—living within these crumbling relics of the former Soviet Union. Fresh water and electricity is scarce, and the buildings are quickly falling into irreparable ruin. The floors have been ripped up for firewood, and the metal salvaged as scrap.