Pleasure of Ruins

IMG_9714Abandoned Soviet-era hotel, Kazbegi, Georgia

“You don’t know why ruins give so much pleasure. I will tell you. . . Everything dissolves, everything perishes, everything passes, only time goes on. . . How old the world is. I walk between two eternities. . . What is my existence in comparison with this crumbling stone?”   Denis Diderot

IMG_9700Mount Kazbek and valley seen from abandoned hotel, Kazbegi

Entropy has its own beauty: the serendipitous artfulness of decay – the romantic ruin aesthetic. The crumbling stone mentioned above, quoted in Rose Macaulay’s Pleasure of Ruins, refers to the classical world but the principal is the same. Like the effect of medieval cathedrals on awestruck, little-travelled peasants, ruins put the viewer in direct contact with the inevitability of time, with their own mortality and decay. Like mould growing in the Petri dish of mankind’s hubris, they illustrate the way in which the delicate interface of man and nature can perceptibly change in a relatively short period.

IMG_4567Abandoned Soviet-era restaurant, near Mestia, Svaneti, Georgia

Sometimes, there are darker violent forces at play, the guilty, flinching schadenfreude of gazing at post-conflict landscapes. More usually though, architectural ruins simply result from financial or political bankruptcy, of a national or regional ideological refit. Abandoned to nature, they stand quietly rotting before consignment to the architectural skip of failed (or rejected) narratives.

IMG_4560IMG_4561Abandoned restaurant near Mestia, Georgia

These days such sights tend to be more common in the countries of the post-Soviet world than they are in Western Europe. Nevertheless, even these are vanishing fast and I have no idea whether the Georgian buildings shown in these images from 2010 are still nobly rotting away or have been bulldozed to make way for new development. Georgia is, after all, a country that in recent years has distanced itself as much as possible from its neighbours across the Caucasus and, in defiance of its recent history, done its utmost to buddy-up with the neoliberal West. I like to imagine how these places might have looked 30 years ago: the Kazbegi hotel filled with holidaying Soviet workers; the Mestia restaurant, with Moscow apparatchiks slurping borscht and slugging vodka. Surely they must have enjoyed the view?

IMG_4564

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About East of Elveden

Hidden places, secret histories and unsung geography from the east of England and beyond
This entry was posted in Caucasus, Russia, Travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Pleasure of Ruins

  1. dobraszczyk says:

    Lovely post & photographs – what an extraordinary location! Would you mind if I emailed you Laurence as I’m planning a visit to Baku and wouldn’t mind asking you a few questions?

    • Many thanks, Paul. It is an extraordinary location – actually, two extraordinary locations in the high Caucasus, hard on the border with the Russian Federation.
      By all means email me about Baku. You can contact me using: lemit at btinternet.com.
      All the best, Laurence

  2. Martin says:

    Excellent pictures, I love to see these ruins close up and walk among the ghosts of another era.

  3. Thanks, Martin. There are still plenty of places like this in the fringes of the former Soviet Union.

  4. Excellent post and photographs Laurence.Thanks.

  5. I don’t know what it is but I am fascinated by ruins, and sad too.

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