The Soviet House of Rest

Sochi and the World of the Soviet Sanatorium

The Demise of Soviet Sochi

Sochi was a resort city, extending the values and programs of the individual sanatorium to the scope of a city plan. Neo-classical buildings of the high Stalinist style housed classic dramas, symphonies, opera and ballet, as well as frequent film, music, and comedy festivals.
The town also regularly hosted chess and other sport competitions (and will continue this tradition with the 2014 Winter Olympics), and featured a full-time circus, always popular with Soviet audiences. The entire city was laid out like a park, with fountains, statues, and flower-lined paths and roads.



Landscape design reinforced Soviet values: a statue of Lenin faced the drama theatre, and behind it stood a memorial to the fallen of the Great Patriotic War (World War II).


Sidewalks led pedestrians through beautifully landscaped gardens, where tropical plants consorted with statues of cultural and political luminaries.


Sculptures of the body beautiful, in bold Olympian form, were everywhere.


The city and its sanatoria were laid out for walking, which was also encouraged by the doctors.


There was always time for bathing in the Black Sea or the sun or relaxing in a café. The beaches may have been rocky, and in later years the water might have been less clean than it once was, but the seaside experience remained one of the great pleasures of Soviet life.


The workers’ palaces of the Soviet period are giving way to a new Sochi, being constructed for the Olympics, but also as part of a longterm plan to make the town into an international vacation and convention center. Sanatoria are being torn down or converted to four star hotels. The entire landscape of the city is being transformed, with old Neoclassical buildings that blended into the landscape falling into the shadows of new high rises. The new buildings block site lines to the sea, and are unpopular with the locals.

The King’s Park complex. Construction has also begun on the blue building shown below. The semi-circular building at left is the projected new Actor sanatorium, which will replace the old Soviet structure.


The first building has been completed, but is still not fully occupied.


Across the street, the pedestrian entrance to the former Zarya sanatorium still stands, but the buildings of the resort have been razed and advertisements promote the new development, Grass City.


The Zarya sanatorium in its heyday:


The developer’s plan for the new complex suggests that it will one day look like this:


At present, however, construction has halted on the project. There is a foundation for one building, but the sales office is not taking bids on the property, and has no information as to when it might actually be completed.


An interior of the Ordzhonikidze Sanatorium, which was closed October 1, 2010. Will it face the same fate as its neighbor?


A billboard in 2009 Sochi: the body beautiful is still on display in Sochi, but it’s representation has clearly changed.