EuropeStoryOn the shore of Caspian sea; Kaspiysk by Kamila Nicholls

Kaspiysk is a small town on the shore of Caspian sea in Dagestan, in the south of Russia. It was built in the 30s for the workers of a military plant that produced naval armament.

Kaspiysk is a small town on the shore of Caspian sea in Dagestan, in the south of Russia. It was built in the 30s for the workers of a military plant that produced naval armament.

This plant is now called “Dagdiesel” and it is working to this day. Kaspiysk was designed by the architects from Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg). Perfectly straight streets, monumental houses with arches and pillars. Now many of these buildings look very shabby and neglected. The main symbol of the town is workshop #8, а beautiful construction built for testing torpedoes in the middle of the sea in 3 kilometers from the shore. It is abandoned since 60s and in ruins now.

Beach by the “Energetik” sanatorium. For the past 5 years the sea moved back, leaving the shore for plants and bushes. On the horizon: worshop #8 and construction site of the new haven for ships of Caspian fleet.

 

Despite all that, unlike many other industrial one-factory towns in Russia, Kaspiysk isn’t a ghost town. It’s growing pretty fast. New buildings and designs contrast with soviet architecture creating a weird and chaotic blend of styles. This contradiction is one of the cultural features of Dagestan. I captured this contrast between the old and the new. I spent part of my childhood in Kaspiysk, and this project is my attempt to understand how to keep the memories without dwelling in the past, how to fit the past into the new reality.

Beach in the new block of town.

Sergey. Every morning he rides his bike to the sea and swims, even in winter when water is around 4-5 degrees.

Banquet hall “Greece”.

Coffee shop in a carriage on Lenin street.

Abandoned sports complex. In Soviet times championships were held here. Now the building is sold to local business. Its further destiny is unknown.

Swimming pool in the entertainment complex “Moscow”. One of the few remodeled soviet buildings. An old cinema house was reconstructed and complemented with restaurant and fitness-club.

Salmira, a pastry cook, lives in Kaspiysk

A house near “Dagdiesel” plant, built before World War II, and a fire station behind.

Men playing beach volleyball. In the back on the right: soviet House of culture, currently almost abandoned. On the left: contemporary office building.

Muslim cemetery in the outskirts. My grandfather and grandmother.

Ruined stairs where locals like to fish.

On the way to the beach.

Housing in new block of town.

“Trud” (Labour) stadium. It looks abandoned but locals train here every morning. It was supposed to be demolished, but people protested, and town sports administration plans to remodel it in 2022.

Soviet sculpture by the “Dagdiesel” plant office building.

Islan, musician and lifeguard, lives in Kaspiysk.

Inside old House of culture. In 2019 it was acknowledged as cultural heritage object. This status protects the building and the territory around it from demolition which new owners planned to do. .

On the rooftop of workshop #8. The workshop was built in 1939. It was fully equipped for living. There was a library, a dining hall and a sports hall. When torpedoes testing conditions changed demanding deeper waters, the workshop was abandoned. Now only tourists and fishermen visit it.

A restaurant in the new block of Kaspiysk.

Madina, a lawyer, lives in Kaspiysk

Old bus stop near the “Dagdiesel” plant.

Abandoned cinema house “Rodina” (Homeland). Now under construction.

A corridor in the old powerplant. It was built in 1935 and provided electricity for the plant and the town. Now abandoned.

Vova, a guide on workshop #8, came to Kaspiysk to visit a friend and stayed.

A star before the “Dagdiesel” plant on Lenin street. It shines red at night.

Workshop #8. Abandoned since 1966. Every year storms ruin it more and more.

About Kamila Nicholls

Kamila Nicholls, documentary photographer from Makhatchkala, Dagestan. Lives in Saint Petersburg, Russia. She graduated from Institute of Journalism and Creative Writing and School of Modern Photography “Docdocdoc”. In her works Kamila focuses on architecture and urbanism, explores cities and captures the changes of urban environment.

 

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