Photographs of refugees still living in the decaying health spas of the Soviet Union

© Ryan Koopmans. All images courtesy of the photographer, via submission

During the Soviet Union, the Georgian town of Tskaltubo was a popular health destination famed for its therapeutic water and sanatoriums.

Trains arrived daily full of guests from Moscow. When the Union collapsed, the buildings were abandoned and fell into decay. Floors have since been ripped up for firewood, metal salvaged as scrap.

In 1992, a war nearby in Abkhazia broke out. Displaced Georgians fled from the conflict and were given temporary shelter in Tskaltubo's unoccupied buildings. Twenty-five years later, hundreds of families remain living in these architectural remains of a Soviet past. Photographer Ryan Koopmans has recently visited the site, capturing the decaying buildings as well as the people who still live there.

"During the heyday of the Soviet Union from the 1950s to 1980s, hundreds of thousands of visitors each year including Stalin and his high-ranking officials from Moscow frequented these facilities," Ryan told Creative Boom.

"The town was renowned for its therapeutic radon-carbonate mineral spring water believed to treat an array of ailments. The general public of the USSR was obliged to visit sanatoriums annually to revitalise which was intended to sustain a healthy and productive workforce. Several masterplans by architects resulted in 22 different sanatorium buildings with hundreds of hotel rooms, spas, bathhouses and in-patient facilities."

Of the 10,000 people displaced in the early 1990s in the breakaway region of Abkhazia, Ryan said: "They created makeshift shelters within these derelict abandoned buildings. Many have lived here for over 25 years despite the Georgian government's plan to use the sanatoriums only as temporary housing for people fleeing the conflict."

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans

© Ryan Koopmans