New East Digital Archive

Lose yourself in the fascinating world of Soviet bus stops with @herwigphoto

29 September 2021

Soviet Bus Stops Insta page @herwigphoto is a visual celebration of the eccentric bus stops that can be found across Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Christopher Herwig, the photographer behind the page, began his obsession with bus stops on a long-distance cycle from London to St Petersburg in 2002. Fascinated by the astonishing designs of the roadside shelters he found along the way, he devoted himself to photographing them. Along with architecture sightings, his Instagram also gives a sneak peak into his travels across the New East.

The bus stops all have their design quirks — ranging from kitsch to monumentalism and grandeur. Although the years of construction are not known, many of them probably date back to the Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras of Soviet history, periods which architecturally were marked by their lack of restraint and antipathy to austerity. This resulted in unique, highly symbolic bus stops which, in many cases, celebrate their surroundings and local heritage.

Some of the tributes were literal: for example, one bus stop in the Russian town of Saransk was shaped like a light bulb after the local lightbulb factory. Throughout the region, animal themes are also common, such as the case in Omsk where the bus station is shaped like a bird with his wings spread for passengers to wait underneath. Many designs also reflect local folklore, with bus stops in Central Asia decorated in traditional colours and patterns.

His first collection of photographs, Soviet Bus Stops, published by Fuel in 2014, covered more than 30,000 km through 14 former Soviet republics. The second volume, published in 2017, is dedicated to bus stops in remote countryside corners of Ukraine, Crimea, Georgia, and Russia.

Herwig’s interest in Soviet transport architecture doesn’t end with bus stops. His most recent project has taken him underground to photograph metro stations, resulting in his third book, Soviet Metro Stations, which came out in 2019. On Instagram, he gives us a sneak peek of the highlights, including the ornate Avtovo Metro Station in St Petersburg, the unusual, the pastel pink arches of Krasnye Vorota Metro Station in Moscow, and the colossal flower-shaped entrance to Hraparak Metro Station in Yerevan.

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