The photos below show Mariupol before and after the Ukraine War, taken in the summer and winter of 2022, with the city slowly recovering.
It has been more than eight months since Ukrainian forces, including the neo-Nazi Azov Regiment, captured Mariupol, the second-largest city of the Donetsk People’s Republic. The victory in the city, which has come to represent one of Russia’s military campaign’s symbols, is perhaps the country’s biggest victory so far.
Locals have attempted to restore peace to the now-Russian city after the conflict ended. Arseniy Kotov, a photojournalist, came again, in the summer and winter of 2022. One of Moscow’s primary objectives is reconstruction, which is reflected in his images as well as the city’s most recent history.
“I first visited Mariupol in the summer. To get there, I had to hitchhike. The driver dropped me off at Shevchenko Boulevard, one of the city’s central streets – named after the iconic Ukrainian poet. The nearest building, which was on a hill, towered above all the surroundings. To get a better view, I walked upstairs and went out on the balcony of an apartment that was missing doors and had damaged walls. From there, I had a pretty good view of the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works plant, now known around the world because of the combat there.”
“I walked to the city’s west side and met a 30-something man and woman roaming around a collapsed nine-story apartment building. They were well dressed, in a trendy way, but were collecting trash in the ruins. They asked me not to photograph them.”
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After the Russian troops arrived, the city was covered in graffiti. Some of the inscriptions expressed the locals’ opinions on the Kiev government or other relevant topics, while others had survival as their primary concern. One of the most typical inscriptions read, “People live here.” Its purpose was to shield locals from the army’s grenades while they cleared the area.
Most streets were free of trash by June. However, there were still burned-out cars stacked in the yards, and the city was littered with signs of previous battles.
The city’s main square is only a short stroll away from these ruins. Previously known as Lenin Square, it included a monument to the father of the Soviet Union in its middle. The monument was demolished after the coup in Ukraine in 2014, and the area was renamed Freedom Square. The original name was reinstated in June 2022, but the monument hadn’t yet been changed.
The local Drama Theater is located nearby. The neo-Nazi Azov regiment vowed to “evacuate” locals to this theatre during the fierce battles taking place in the city. The structure served as a bomb shelter as well. It was blown up on March 16 while it was crowded with people, allegedly by Ukrainian nationalists. To this day, the precise number of victims is unknown.
One of the biggest port cities on the Azov Sea can be seen in its surrounding area going about its daily business. The seaport of Mariupol was freed on April 13 of last year by combined Russian and Donetsk People’s Republic forces. Both within the building and on the ships, all captives were set free. The port itself sustained just minor damage and is still in service for commercial transportation.
Electric trains that used to run between Mariupol and the regional hub of Donetsk have been stored at this railroad station for the past eight years. The 2022 fierce clashes resulted in the destruction of the carriages.
In June of that year, the city still appeared deserted, but beach crowds had already begun to gather. On the Left Bank beach, mine explosions were still common, but it didn’t stop the locals from relaxing by the sea.
During the fights, the Tram Depot No. 2 at Mariupol’s entrance was destroyed. The vehicles ceased operation on March 2, 2022. Some city routes are currently being explored for repair.
Victory Prospect, along with a sizeable chunk of the Left Bank neighborhood, was severely impacted by the conflict. This area of the city appeared to be nearly lifeless in the summer.
The devastation increases as we approach closer to Azovstal. A few blocks separate this house from the location of the plant. Although there has been damage to the buildings, they can still be fixed. There have already been home block demolitions to the north.
Due to shelling or an aerial bomb, an entire piece of this building collapsed, leaving only a little portion at the top that formed a type of arch. By November, it had been removed.
Explosions were heard everywhere in June. Although the battle was over, many areas of the city, including the plant’s location, were still mined. There were sappers at work all throughout the city.
Azovstal Iron and Steel Works is a massive metallurgical plant that has been in operation since 1933. Its location encompasses 11 square kilometres (4 square miles). The plant comprises six enormous blast furnaces, 80 huge facilities, and 41 shops. During the siege, it sustained significant damage. The Azov neo-Nazis and the Ukrainian Armed Forces took over Azovstal in the spring of 2022. The conflict lasted from March 18 through May 17.
Mariupol resembled a large building site in December 2022. The city is being rebuilt by construction workers from all across Russia and even other former Soviet countries.
Shevchenko Boulevard was still mostly untouched. As a result, it is currently the area of the city that is busiest. The local economy is flourishing. Locals now throng there to purchase a variety of things, from technical gadgets to fruits and vegetables from adjacent villages, as supermarkets and all large establishments have been robbed and destroyed.
Numerous buildings at the farther end of Metallurgov Prospect escaped serious harm. Russian construction workers are repairing the handful that was damaged.
Compared to so-called panel buildings composed of concrete blocks, brick buildings are simpler to repair. A damaged panel needs to be removed and either replaced with bricks or a new panel. However, bricks can be used to swiftly patch holes caused by shelling in buildings made of brick.
Even completely intact buildings will require expensive repairs. Most of them will have new windows, roofs, pipes, radiators, and roofs installed. Russia’s government will pay the expenses.
The boiler house was constructed in the fall, just in time for the heating season (its pipes are visible in the foreground). The surrounding buildings’ roofs were also replaced by construction workers at the start of December.
These Mariupol houses were some of the first to be rebuilt. By December, the external renovation was almost finished, windows had been replaced, and the majority of the interior work had been finished.
A mobile cafe chain dubbed “Mariupol Is Russia and That’s It” debuted on the city’s streets last fall. The name is a parody of the Russian fast-food business “Tasty and That’s It.” Both locals and workers enjoy the cafe.