On Lenin’s orders the subtropical Black Sea resort of Sochi was opened up to the masses in the 1920s. Ministries, army units, unions and factories started to build spas and accommodation for workers, with trips being offered as a reward for hard work. The resorts also became a refuge for the Soviet elite, including politicians, cosmonauts and actors. In Soviet times, millions of workers were sent to sanatoriums in Sochi to revive their spirits and strengthen their bodies. In the run-up to the Winter Olympics in 2014, almost all the sanatoria would be converted into luxury hotels. There is no place for sentimentality when it comes to the past.

Together with writer Arnold van Bruggen I spent ten days at Sochi’s Sanatorium Metallurg, among the elderly and infirm Russians who still flock there for daily massages and 20-minute radon baths.


Sanatorium Metallurg on a postcard from 1980s

“Following Lenin’s decree in 1919 that ‘localities with curative properties are the property of the people and are to be used for curative purposes,’ Sochi has harnessed its 90 miles of spectacular coast to this end.”

—The New York Times, 1982


View from the garden on new apartment block
Sanatorium Metallurg, Sochi, 2009

“Before the revolution, there were 36 spas and 56 sanatoria. Today there are 350 spas and nearly 2500 sanatoria where, last year, four and a half million people were treated.”

—Pittsburg Post, 1955


Magnetically charged sulfurous clay treatment
Sanatorium Metallurg, Sochi, 2009


Former theater, now closed for renovation
Sanatorium Metallurg, Sochi, 2009

“The popularity of the spas seems to be in the Soviet character. There is something about treatment based on mineral springs, sun and air that appeal to a proclivity among Russian for folk cures, natural medicines and selfdiagnoses.”

—The New York Times, 1982


View from balcony on the Black Sea
Sanatorium Metallurg, Sochi, 2009

“Russians often profess astonishment that Americans do not share their faith in sulfurous muds and radioactive springs.”

—The New York Times, 1982


Room for radiographic treatment
Sanatorium Metallurg, Sochi, 2009

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Inhalers and radiography equipment.

“Like everywhere else, the hot water didn’t work, the washstands had no stoppers, the bathtubs were rusted, tiles were missing in the floors, panes of glass were broken and the toilet sputtered all day long.”

—Pittsburg Post, 1955


Disco night from 8 until 10 pm.
Sanatorium Metallurg, Sochi, 2009


Mikhail Karabelnikov from Murmansk
Sanatorium Metallurg, Sochi, 2009


Almost all sanatoriums have a private beach
Sanatorium Metallurg, Sochi, 2009

“One may swim, go out in a motorboat and join excursion groups under the aegis of a hostess. But at 10 p.m., everyone must go to sleep. Only high officials and officers are exempt from this rule.”

—Pittsburg Post, 1955


Sanatorium Metallurg (top left) on a postcard from 1968


Dima gets treatment for his burns
Matsesta, Sochi, 2009

“The claims made for the waters of Matsesta vary from curing sterility in women to arresting baldness in men, and if nastiness is a measure of the quality of a medicine the smell in this sanatorium should be proof of its excellence.”

—Journey into Russia, 1964


Heated saltwater pool for winter
Sanatorium Metallurg, Sochi, 2009

Introduction movie © Arnold van Bruggen, Prospektor, 2009.

“Book-wise, Sanatorium is short but its sexy design and production values deserve attention. Designers Kummer & Herrman employed an interesting double stitch binding that achieves a squared off spine and a division of text from the photographs which were printed on different paper stocks from one another.”

— 5B4, 2009



Text: Arnold van Bruggen. Design: Kummer & Herrman

Sanatorium became the first annual publication created during the course of The Sochi Project. It was our first attempt to capture the city, by focusing on what had made it famous: the fresh air, healing waters, and medical facilities in Lenin’s palaces for the proletariat. The book is an account of our two week stay in Sanatorium Metallurg and the story in the back is written as a fictionalized diary of a spa guest. Old postcards recall the heyday of sanatoriums in the Soviet times. Quotes from earlier articles about sanatorium life in Sochi appear in the margins alongside the photos.

Utrecht, The Netherlands: self-published, 2009. 24 x 32 cm. (9 3/8 x 12 5/8 in.), 40 pages, 21 color photographs, white folio with stitched binding,.

Winner New York Photo Book Award 2010


“If you’ve liked ‘101 Billionaires’, you’ll like ‘Sanatorium’, too.”

—Conscientious, 2009


Travel Journal, Noorderlicht, Groningen, 2009.


Contact Gallery, Toronto, 2014.


Mare (Germany), October 2011


Mare (Germany), October 2011

“Schwerfällige Frauen in silbernen Pumps tanzen miteinander. Man meint, die Zeit sei stehen geblieben”.

—Mare, 2011

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Vrij Nederland (Dutch), January 2010


Het Parool (Dutch), February 2010

“To immerse themselves in the full restorative experience, Hornstra faked a backache and a sore knee and Van Bruggen pretended to suffer from heart problems. From morning massages to evening discos, nightly vodkas and three sour cream-loaded dinners a day, they emerged a fortnight later a little heavier and a little less fit and healthy.”

—Calvert Journal, 2014


Sunday Times (UK), August 2010