Architecture and housing in Comecon: Mongolia and socialist states during the Cold War

Nikolay Erofeev's research project focuses on the urbanisation processes in socialist Mongolia during the Cold War. The project explores how these exchanges between Mongolia, Soviet Union, China, and Eastern European states fundamentally reshaped urban space and daily life in the country. The projects established a multidisciplinary framework to look at construction and planning projects in Mongolia between architecture and planning history, urban studies, and labor history. It explores the experiences of local and foreign specialists, workers, and citizens alike, engaged in transnational construction projects. More broadly, the project seeks to provide new understanding about the urbanisation processes in the Global South during the Cold War and sheds light on the complexities and dynamics of transnational cooperation in shaping the built environment.


Dr. Erofeev's project is supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship

Architecture of Life: Soviet Interwar Modernism and Human Sciences

Architecture of Life: Soviet Modernism and the Human Sciences isa monograph by Alla Vronskaya that is published by the University of Minnesota Press in June 2022. 

Architecture of Life recasts the history of Soviet architecture during the 1920s and 1930s, presenting it not merely as a projection of the turbulences of Russian politics but as a part of the transnational and transdisciplinary modernist project. It examines a set of discussions that was foundational for the formation of international modernism.

Focusing on the ideas of Soviet architecture’s major theorists—El Lissitzky, Moisei Ginzburg, and Nikolay Ladovsky—it also analyzes the work of their lesser-known colleagues, situating their projects and ideas against the background of the work of modernists elsewhere. Architecture of Life uncovers how in its search for a methodological foundation Soviet architecture in an expanded sense (including related art practices and such subfields as pedagogy, urbanism, landscape architecture, and interior design) turned to human sciences, embracing their principles as the universal ideology of scientific modernization. Exemplified by the all-encompassing category of life, these principles included neo-Lamarckian evolutionism and energetism as the scientific methodology; unconscious perception as the preferred epistemological mechanism; imperial domination over nature as the moral and political program; and efficiency, organization, and planning as economic priorities. 

The work on the monograph was supported by the Herodotus Fund membership at the School of Historical Studies of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, during the academic year 2019-2020


Anna Bokov, “Architecture of Life: Soviet Modernism and the Human Sciences” by Alla Vronskaya. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2022. ix, 281 pp. Notes. Index. Illustrations. Plates. Photos. $35.00, paper. Slavic Review. 2023 82(3):770-774. doi:10.1017/slr.2023.292

James Graham, “Architecture of Life: Soviet Modernism and the Human Sciences” by Alla Vronskaya. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2022. xxxii+ 281 pp. $35.00. ISBN 978‐1‐5179‐1227‐7." The Russian Review, 6 October 2023.

Michael Brinley. Review of Vronskaya, Alla, “Architecture of Life: Soviet Modernism and the Human Sciences.” H-Sci-Med-Tech, H-Net Reviews. April, 2023.

Jordan Gorzalski, Book review of “Architecture of Life: Soviet Modernism and the Human Sciences” by Alla Vronskaya. University of Minnesota Press, August 2022. 336 p. ill. ISBN 978-1-4529-6714-1 (h/c), $140.00. MLA Commons. January 2023.

Eduardo Prieto, “Vida o máquina: Sciences and Soviet Modernism.” Review of Alla Vronskaya, “Architecture of Life: Soviet Modernism & the Human Sciences.” Arquitectura Viva, 01/10/2022

Se­­­cond World, Se­­­cond Sex: Wo­­­men in Ar­chi­­­tec­­­tu­­­re un­­­­­der So­ci­a­­­lism (On­­­li­­ne Re­­­po­­­si­­­to­­­ry)

The project "Second World, Second Sex: Women in Architecture under Socialism (Online Repository)" received a grant of the Hesse Ministry of Science and Art through the program "Dimensionen der Kategorie Geschlecht - Frauen- und Geschlechterforschung in Hessen." In the course of the next 18 months, in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Tijana Vujosevic (University of British Columbia, Canada) we will work on creating an online repository of primary sources and reference material related to the activity of female architects in the countries of state socialism. The project will start on 01.06.2021

This project explores the role and position of women in architecture in non-liberal socialist contexts during the twentieth century. These contexts include Russia and the Soviet Union before the Second World War; as well as the countries of the Soviet bloc, including the GDR, and the countries that remained outside of the bloc but nevertheless declared their adherence to socialism, such as Yugoslavia and China, during the Cold War. Challenging the received vision of socialist architecture as a male field, we bring a feminist perspective into this sub-field of architectural history, from which it has so far been missing. We aim to answer the following questions: How did socialism, including but not limited to paternalistic state programs, affect female architects‘ professional and personal lives? What were the effects of national, cultural, and regional specificity in different socialist countries? And what could we learn from that experience today? By answering these questions, we aim to bring to light the often neglected legacy of female architects under socialism and to analyze the entanglement of gender, politics, and architecture in twentieth-century non-liberal socialist societies.

You can find the resulting website "Women Building Socialism" here: