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The Unbearable Grayness of Buildings: Soviet Architecture in Armenia [Photo]

Editor’s note: Armenia reestablished its independence nearly 25 years ago, but the legacy of the USSR in the country lives on through leftover Soviet architecture. These buildings across the republic are as fascinating as they are monotonous; they are eerie and devoid of aesthetic. Their utilitarian purpose is incorporated into the design: colorless blocks, uniform heights. It is only with the appearance of the trappings of a modern society – like satellite dishes – that we can be sure we have not traveled back in time. Or, in some way, maybe we have. Tatevik Vardanyan leads us there with her lens. 

Soviet Architecture - Tatevik Vardanyan - The Armenite
Tall, rectangular-style building in Ajapnyak


Soviet Architecture - Tatevik Vardanyan - The Armenite
Cubes next to cubes


Soviet Architecture - Tatevik Vardanyan - The Armenite
Looking up to repetition


Soviet Architecture - Tatevik Vardanyan - The Armenite
New ways of looking at old buildings


Soviet Architecture Armenia The Armenite
Linear laundry


Soviet Architecture - Tatevik Vardanyan - The Armenite
A touch of color in the windows


Soviet Architecture - Tatevik Vardanyan - The Armenite
Who’s home?


Soviet Architecture - Tatevik Vardanyan - The Armenite
The sky is filled with Soviets


Soviet Architecture - Tatevik Vardanyan - The Armenite
Geometric balconies


Soviet Architecture Armenia The Armenite
Looking up to the twins


09 Tatevik Vardanyan
Unusual shapes on Halabyan street


All I see are jagged edges


Soviet Architecture Armenia The Armenite
Moving closer to monotony


Soviet Architecture Armenia The Armenite
And then there were three


Oval balconies of Davtashen


Soviet Architecture - Tatevik Vardanyan - The Armenite
A cold, brown building


Soviet Architecture Armenia The Armenite
Counting cubes on Baghramyan street





  1. Patrick Patrick Feb 26, 2015

    I feel thoroughly depressed and intrigued by these pictures. In another way (like Republic square) there could be something good and almost “relic” like to be said about the Soviet era and its influence on Armenian architecture. But, these are just another example of how we need to dig into our roots, or create anew to have our own “Armenian” flavor of design

  2. Jack Jack Feb 26, 2015

    How old are these buildings? Wasn’t it under Khrushchev in the 1950s that most people in the Soviet Union got to live in their own private apartments? Also, has the city taken safety precautions given what happened to such buildings in Gyumri and Spitak?

  3. Pegor Pegor Feb 27, 2015

    By “devoid of aesthetic” I guess you mean “devoid of a Northern Boulevard aesthetic”, which would be, if nothing else, more… grammatic? I love the Armenite but couldn’t help defending the honor of Yerevan’s grey (formerly pink) ladies! And great job by Tatevik.

    • Noubar Noubar Mar 1, 2015

      Aesthetic is just the idea of something having beauty. So something can be devoid of aesthetic and it doesn’t necessarily need to be qualified.

      • Pegor Pegor Mar 1, 2015

        Grammar and aesthetics! Both are subjective I guess 🙂 But I think I speak for many when I say that the Soviet modern aesthetic of the architecture The Armenite so lovingly featured has a lot going for it. May they keep up the good work.

  4. Vardan Vardan Feb 27, 2015

    There is a satirical movie about Soviet architecture, where a four guys get really drunk before one of them is supposed to get married. They forget which one was supposed to fly to St. Petersburg from Moscow (might be the other way around) and send the wrong guy. Basically in every city everything is so similar, that even the key to his aparmtent in his home city works for the apartment in the building that has the same address in another city. And the building looks exactly the same in both cities.

    • Jack Jack Feb 27, 2015

      Vardan, that satire is “The Irony of Fate,” which is still shown on Russian television around the New Year and Orthodox Christmastime.

    • Anet Anet Jan 21, 2019

      True ive seen that movie with English subs…the first time I visited Armenia, one night I got up the wrong entrance and knocked on the wrong door thinking its the place I rented when it was the entrance next to us…

  5. Elena Elena Feb 27, 2015

    Are you making a Milan Kundera reference in your title? ” The Unbearable Lightness of Being?”

  6. Armen K Armen K Feb 27, 2015

    Your last picture entitled “Yerevan” is very misleading and really harmful to MY city’s positive PR.
    I wish Armenians had enough brains to present the bright and the beautiful along with the old and gray. What have YOU done to add color to your city?

    • Noubar Noubar Mar 1, 2015

      I don’t think there is anything particularly harmful about this photo. I think its beautiful actually, as are the rest. The photographer made no comment inferring that it was anything but.

  7. S. Boyle S. Boyle Feb 27, 2015

    These are so beautiful it hurts. I’ve rarely been so nostalgic for Yerevan as I am looking at these images. Grand vistas of the city are lovely and may promote tourism, but these images capture the familiar sights of everyday life. Thank you Ms. Vardanyan, please keep producing art like this.

  8. Marc Marc Jan 14, 2018

    Concrete is gray! You can’t break it and it won’t rot! Sometimes we paint it. America needs to come off their attitude to “all things Soviet” or “…Russian”. It is not so bad over here. Spend a few years IN Russia or Armenia and learn to live life.

    • TruthRobot TruthRobot Jul 8, 2022

      Concrete can absolutely break and collapse, just like Communism has every time. =)

  9. Tom Tom Feb 9, 2018

    Very interesting. Thank you for sharing.


  10. Luciana Minassian Luciana Minassian Jan 22, 2019

    Buildings do look alike, grey (former pink stone) but I love motherland just the way it is. It was hard to find that old ´Soviet buildings in Moscow, and it is part its history whether we like it or not. Time will probably make those buildings disappear in Armenia as well.
    that movie mentioned in comments seems to be great !!! thank you people

  11. […] reality of state control are everywhere, and it’s a cold, sterile, monochrome world that only a Soviet architect could love. As they say in the film, “Blessings of the State. Blessings of the […]

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