Photographer Travels 30,000km Documenting Soviet Bus Stops And Is Accused Of Spying

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Canadian photographer Christopher Herwig spent twelve years photographing Soviet bus stops. The project unexpectedly began in 2002 when he challenged himself to take one good picture every hour on a long distance bike ride from London to St. St. Petersburg; 30,000km and 13 countries later, Herwig published “Soviet Bus Stops.” However, the project was not without its difficulties.
“Despite my efforts not to arouse suspicion I was, on several occasions, accused of being a spy and only narrowly avoided getting caught up in something rather awkward,” Herwig writes on Kickstarter. “In Abkhazia my driver accused me of being a Georgian agent and photographing sensitive material. He demanded a bribe, otherwise, it would be ‘straight to the militizia and a firing squad.’”
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Christopher Herwig began an 18,000-mile journey in 2002 to photograph Soviet bus stops. Some like this in Aralsk, Kazakhstan, did not even have roads connected to them.
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The hammer and sickle design of the Soviet Union is seen emblazoned on this bus stop in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan

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This elaborate, shell design was spotted in Abkhazia, an area fighting for independence from Georgia

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This pavilion was built in the deserted area of Shymkent in Kazakhstan – one of the former USSR countries

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One of the less extravagant designs is a small wooden hut in Kablakula, which is only serviced by a dirt road

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Many show how some architects were inspired to produced elaborate designs in an era where many buildings were dull and monotonous. Herwig took this one during his visit to the disputed territory of Abkhazia. At one point a taxi driver demanded he hand over a bribe unless he would turn him over to the authorities for being a spy

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his bizarre design was captured in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan. A soldier is pictured on one side and a merry-go-round is on a mural on the other

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A car’s headlights are seen in the horizon, approaching this bus stop in Kootsi, Estonia

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A sign hangs above this bus stop covered with butterflies in Lelyukhivka, Ukraine

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Herwig took an image of this cube and circular design in Pitsunda, Abkhazia, during his enormous journey

At one point a taxi driver in Abkhazia – a disputed territory in the Caucasus  – a taxi driver demanded a bribe of $20,000,  or he would have reported him to the authorities.

He wrote: ‘Despite my efforts not to arouse suspicion I was, on several occasions, accused of being a spy and only narrowly avoided getting caught up in something rather awkward.

‘In Abkhazia my driver accused me of being a Georgian agent and photographing sensitive material. He demanded a bribe, otherwise, it would be “straight to the militizia”.’

In an interview with Vice in 2014, he said: ‘In Abkhazia, it’s not a country but it seems like one, they’ve got the border locked up and they’ve ruled themselves for about 20 years, they’re settled in.

‘They’re trying to become independent from Georgia. The taxi driver who was taking me around argued about the rate at the end of the day. I wasn’t in the country as a photographer so if he’d brought the officials in I’d be caught being there without proper permission.

 

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This strange bus stop design was spotted in the middle of the desert in Charyn, Kazakhstan, with no connecting roads

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This bus stop in Falesti, Moldova, still has a timetable on one of the small shelters

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This bus stop sits in an area of Mary in Turkmenistan, surrounded by desert. Herwig had initially set off on a bike ride between London and St Petersburg and had planned to take a picture every hour

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This bizarre design was spotted in Pitsunda, Abkhazia. Herwig’s collection of photographs have now been published in a book

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Most of them, including this shelter in Taraz, Kazakhstan, have been out of use for decades

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A woman is seen on the phone, waiting for a bus in one of the still-in-use bus stops in Machukhy, Ukraine

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Herwig spent 12 years looking for bus stops like this in Tursunzoda, Tajikistan. He said there would be some places with a bus stop every 500m, but others weren’t even connected by road

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A man chops up watermelons from the trunk of his car in Echmiadzin, Armenia, in front of the curved bus shelter

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