«Tolyatti», in Michele Cera’s photographic book what remains of an era

twelve o’clock, March 17, 2021 – 18:13

The city of Stavropol, renamed Tolyatti after the death of the Italian Communist leader, today shows all the signs of the degradation of the old Soviet utopia

of Marilena Di Tursi

The Soviet urban model was at the service of a new society where modern man had to live in spatial structures that favored the collectivity. To feel the belonging to the communist creed and to the social group, people lived in similar houses, worked in the same places and had fun in locations conforming to a single and repeated standard. That same format that instructed the great capitals such as the peripheral cities, born close to the vigorous industrialization implemented by the regime. One example among many is Togliatti, one of the largest Soviet industrial cities which in 1964, after the death of the leader of the Italian Communist Party, stopped being called Stavropol and was renamed Tolyatti. now the subject of a double investigation with the images of the Bari photographer Michele Cera and with the writings of Guido Sechi, researcher of human geography at the University of Riga. Tolyatti, co-edited by The Velvet Cell and VAC Foundation, a study that focuses on the Avtozavodskiy neighborhood, built in the 1960s and intended for the workers of the Vaz car plant, built at the time in collaboration with Fiat. In an elegant graphic project, the volume returns the all-Soviet charm of the city on the banks of the Volga.

shadow carousel

Tolyatti, once upon a time there was the Soviet Union (and maybe there still is)
Ideological landscapes

Landscapes designed by an ideology that envisaged muscular and compact volumes for the residences, large avenues at the service of powerful propaganda devices, desolate proximity between the countryside and the urban core. On them, Cera’s shots deposit a clarified photograph, with a refined fading that cages, in a dating back to the past, a place that has not yet escaped its Soviet essence. Of his being post Tolyatti shows a widespread deterioration in the cracked walls of neglected constructivist buildings, with svirgolate windows or in disused theaters that alternate instead with staterooms with still evident signs of regime splendor. The population, although subjected to the same icy and desolate brightness, brings to the present of a generation now homologated in tastes. It is accompanied by others that survive in the cult of sociality also rooted in the Soviet past, such as the ecumenical chess marathons.

March 17, 2021 | 18:13

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