Almost a decade ago, I spent a year abroad in the seashore town of Alushta, Crimea. Older sections were dotted with crumbling stone fortresses from the 15th-century Tartar era, while newer parts were the cloned rows ofKhrushchyovka apartment complexes built during Soviet times. Smack-dab in between this ancient-meets-postmodern mash-up of architecture, there was the town aquarium. It was a UFO-type building, a Milky Way–hailing beacon of blocks that seemed grossly out of place in the center of the Black Sea resort town. The concrete disk was like a product of an intergalactic emergency landing, ripped from a space-age blockbuster—a mini monstrosity akin to a bootleg version of Cloud City from Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.
The brutal, futuristic building style seemingly plucked out of the Star Warsfranchise is not a rarity within the post–Soviet Union. Miles away in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev—rearing its head out of an otherwise normal section of the Institute of Scientific and Technological Research and Development—is a smooth saucer, or a sore thumb touchdown by a shoddy Galactic Senate. Even in the southern Caucasus country of Georgia—a region filled with romantic, sweeping Middle Eastern–influenced architecture, is the Bank of Georgia in Tbilisi, an 18-story stack of jutting rectangles that possesses a sort of violent looming comparable to the fictional 40-plus-foot-tall combative AT-AT walkers—another character from The Empire Strikes Back.