A digital artist and blogger from Ukraine, Andrey Goopsa, shows how typical post-Soviet cities should look in the 21st century with the right approach towards improvement. He decided to fix what these countries are failing to achieve in years in his project called "Flourishing."
For two years, Goopsa has been searching for real locations in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus that desperately need a modern makeover and reimagining them with the help of Photoshop so that they can flourish right before our eyes. He also rebuilds the abandoned Pripyat to show how the city would look if the Chernobyl nuclear disaster had never happened.
Here are Goopsa's before and after images that juxtapose the harsh reality former cities of the USSR still live in with how they should have prospered. This will hit close to home for those living in any post-Soviet country.
Goopsa has loved to draw since he was a child. Naturally, he attended an art school, a lyceum, and finally, got into the academy for industrial design. The end of studies was the beginning of "Flourishing." Fashion Life asked the artist how the project originated.
"My studies didn't go smoothly as at the same time, I was creating for my YouTube channel, which was my priority. I did get a diploma in the end and only after that, I started my project 'Flourishing.' Until then, I was shooting my travels exploring abandoned places in Ukraine. At that time, I didn't know much about architecture and infrastructure. I developed my knowledge with the 'Flourishing' project. When I was set on the subject and location of my next video, I did lots of research and applied that knowledge. Today, I have built up knowledge and don't have to dig through the internet to create another video episode for the project," Goopsa said.
"The first episode of 'Flourishing' was just an experiment. I didn't expect it to develop into full-fledged and regular content. My first video wasn't about infrastructure or city plans―I was creating entertainment content. As I was shooting about travels and abandoned places, I figured my audience would also be interested in Pripyat. I was already pretty skilled at Photoshop, so I decided to imagine how Pripyat would look today if the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster never happened. Unexpectedly, the video went viral with a million views (and later grew to 3 million). I took the opportunity to make a part two video on Pripyat. But I always dreamt of creating educational content, to be a useful member of society. I came up with the idea to reformat the project and made a video in which I showed how our post-Soviet cities could look with the right approach toward improvement. This is where it all began and is still going."
Goopsa said that the most important for him is not to criticize specific cities, but to convey his ideas. His goal goes beyond digital art: he wants to show residents of post-Soviet countries that there is a better way of living. And what's a better way than to actually show them their renovated streets?
"My goal is to show society that we need to demand more from our government. Most of those people have no idea how cities should look in the 21st century. I hope that people start demanding a quality urban environment for themselves."
Goopsa walked us through the process of creating a single video, which takes around one month to finish while he's balancing commission work at the same time.
"I used to draw inspiration from other bloggers such as the urban blogger Varlamov, but since I have the knowledge myself now―I rarely turn to the internet for information. What's the algorithm for my video? I start with the idea to point out particular problems in cities. Then, according to my subject, I search for streets on Google street view. After that, I write a script, work on images, film, and edit."
We asked Goopsa why many post-Soviet countries still look the same. He said: "Post-Soviet countries look worse than ever. There are no drastic changes happening, so cityscapes are clogged with handmade balconies and other outbuildings, messy advertising, and ugly signs."
So we asked the artist what could transform those cities for the better.
"In my opinion, there are three crucial steps that could transform our cities. Firstly, we need to have a universal design code for store signs and advertisements. Secondly, introduce modern public transport. Lastly, we should renovate 'Khrushchevka' buildings."
And this is exactly what Goopsa does in his videos. He does intricate work on every single project and edits little details in the image, from cleaning streets of trash and advertising, to renovating buildings and roads, to fixing landscapes and even introducing new transport.
Goopsa has 142k followers on his YouTube channel. He gathered a community of people who find his work painfully relatable. Many people comment they felt emotional seeing their cities transformed and wish it was implemented in real life.
"99% of feedback to my content is positive. People start to understand and want to live in beautiful and comfortable cities. Some of my viewers react negatively and try to justify their government. I think that we need, on the contrary, to demand improvement of our cities. It's their job to develop the economy and improve people's lives. It's their responsibility. They get paid for that. I am certain that the new generation that gets knowledge from urban bloggers will change our cities for the better!"