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As the script of El'dar Riazanov's hugely popular film comedy, The Irony of Fate, written by the director and Emil' Braginskii, put it: For a useful discussion of its effects in Leningrad, mainly based on material from the press and memoirs, see Lebina and Chistikov It started to become important as part of the mids drive to emphasise to Soviet citizens that the Revolution had also brought them prosperity in a material sense.
There is a large secondary literature dealing with this subject: Fitzpatrick ; Glushchenko ; Gronow ; Kettering On uiut in the s, see Reid a. The precise evolution of the concept over time is an interesting question. Beliaev's Prodavets vozdukha, ; such examples disappear in the selection of later materials. On the other hand, the bias of this source is towards literature rather than journalism, so its evidence is not conclusive.
In the olden days, when someone fetched up in a town or city they didn't know, they felt lonely and lost. Everything was strange: All that's changed now. Someone fetches up in a town they don't know, they feel right at home: They long ago stopped building to individual plans, now everything is pattern-book.
In the past, in one place you'd find St. Now every town has a cinema called Cosmos, built to a pattern-book design, in which you can watch a pattern-book film. There's not too much variety in street names either. Lovely, isn't it.? But at the same time, Riazanov and Braginskii's sarcasm was softened by the fact that in The Irony of Fate, standardisation was the engine of romance.
Only because one Soviet street looked completely like another, independent of location, did the Moscow hero manage to meet up with the Leningrad heroine, when he let himself into her flat which had the identical number and stood on an identically named street thinking it was his own. The film conveyed the sense that individuality could be generated not in spite of standardisation, but as a result of this.
The purpose of the present article is to examine the tensions between historical and local particularity and Soviet universalism in a specific historical context. By looking at Leningrad apartments, I illustrate the effects of standardising reforms in a Soviet city with a highly developed sense of local identity, and one in which pre-Soviet history was becoming increasingly important.
From the late s onwards, newspapers, magazines, and guidebooks; museum exhibitions, literature, and art gave an increasing emphasis to pre St. Petersburg, and an ever-expanding number of pre buildings was placed under state protection Kelly a. Those who directed the changes at the level of what in Soviet culture was termed 'agitation and propaganda' mainly came from the Leningrad intelligentsia. However, as our interviewing project has shown, local pride and interest in the city's special character was and is not limited to those with higher education.
It would be possible to argue for an overall 'Soviet urban domestic culture' at this period, certainly in Leningrad. So much is the tentative assumption on which this study is based, though the interview material and participant observation is biased towards intelligentsia informants.
The past appealed to me more than the future'. Brought up in an era when 'the word intellectual sounded like a reproach', he found himself, by the s, seeing Vadim's life and values as more 'real' than his own Granin , vol. This reverential attitude to the past was typical of the times.
These included so-called korennye leningradtsy, born-and-bred Leningraders, those whose connections with the city went back at least one generation.
This discussion focusing on the s is confirmed by my own work on the post-Stalin era also Kelly forthcoming, chap. However, the interviews cited below suggest that status divisions were of less importance in the home. For further details of the biographical backgrounds of the informants interviewed for our Leningrad and St. Petersburg project, see http: While mainly concerned with Moscow, Kozlov's essay includes material on Leningrad.
In , nearly a third of the city's population lived in the Tsentral'nyi Central district , of 1,, , plus a further , on Vasilievskii Island, and , on Petrograd Side.
This places about 50 per cent in the areas that were to become the 'historic centre' Statisticheskii spravochnik The population of the 'historic centre' was, as of , of comparable size about 0.
It should be noted also that the city's population overall reached a historical low in the immediate post-revolutionary years; by , it stood at 3. Rezvov Most incomers, if they obtained state accommodation at all some had to rent on the private market , were housed in hostels or barracks it is these with whom Rezvov's article is mostly concerned.
Petersburg Humanities University of the Trade Unions, adopted a reverential attitude to informants, such as Natalia Bekhtereva, with long-established roots and famous names. Igor' Smirnov, for example, writes, 'The interiors of city dwellings have as their purpose the preservation of valuables, they are predisposed to collection' Social ostracism of so-called 'former people' those who belonged to pre-revolutionary elite groups, such as the gentry and merchant estates meant that 'Petersburg style' was also stigmatised.
The flagship projects of the day, the Lensovet Building and the House of Political Prisoners, were built on the principle of the dom-kommuna, 'housing commune', a type of co-operative housing development where residents not only pooled resources, but also shared collective facilities for catering, child-care, laundry, and so on.
An open tender organised in for a brick or concrete structure to be constructed on the corner of ulitsa Krasnykh Zor' and Pesochnaia specified ceilings of up to 2. Thornycroft , where the beautifully decorated apartment in a historic building formerly owned by the British expert on Russian art and picture dealer, John Stuart, is featured, or Cerwinske See e.
The Sheremet'ev Palace on the Fontanka now also includes a permanent exhibition of paintings largely portraits of the donors , furniture, and personal items donated by V. Strekalov-Obolenskii and A. Saraeva-Bondar' Saraeva-Bondar' I discuss the status of collectors and collecting more fully in Kelly forthcoming, chap.
Gerasimova and Chuikina ; Obertrais Julia Obertreis's excellent study of housing in Leningrad includes a short section on the communes in Leningrad, mainly based on memoirs The three-room or four-room flats with a total area of 50 square metres or 65 in the case of four-roomed ones were to have a kitchen of seven square metres, a hall at least 1.
The bulk of housing in Leningrad up to the s, and in the centre after that, continued to be made up of pre structures. Even before the Revolution, high-ceilinged, sumptuously appointed enfilades made up, as Ekaterina Iukhneva has described, only a small proportion of the housing stock Most families lived in much more cramped conditions. The composer Sergei Prokof'ev's family was normally resident in Ekaterinoslav Province, where Sergei's father was an estate manager, and where they had a large and comfortably-appointed house.
When Sergei joined the junior department of the St. Petersburg Conservatoire in , however, they rented a flat on Sadovaia, in the centre of the city, which offered them rather modest accommodation: One is inclined to suppose the latter.
During the new housing drive of , the proportion of new building by district reached a maximum of In Vyborgskii district, it was 28 per cent, and in the Central district, 3 per cent.
See Gerasimova and Chuikina These overall figures need a little nuancing. According to Statis-ticheskii spravochnik By the s, central Leningrad was overwhelmingly made up of buildings of four storeys and more. One- and two-storey structures had either completely disappeared if they were wooden or had been extended upwards by nadstroika the addition of extra storeys to create historically hybrid dwellings. At the same time, the existing 'footprint' was retained. Petersburg, includes photographs of improvised living quarters in such places dating from the early to mids.
For example, Kamennoostrovskii prospekt renamed ulitsa Krasnykh Zor' housed the large apartment of Sergei Kirov complete with heavy wooden furniture, hunting trophies, and a magnificent American fridge, and on Lieutenant Schmidt Embankment stood the neo-classical block owned by the Academy of Sciences, where academic bigwigs enjoyed a direct view of the Neva from their long windows. Il'in with many buildings to his credit from the s and s, and the leading architect for the first General Plan of the City of Leningrad in , I.
Fomin, and L. Their ideas of appropriate living in terms of ceiling height and room divisions also went back to the early twentieth century. The most notorious illustration of this is the Leningrad kommunalka communal apartment. The Museum Apartment of I. Pavlov the famous physiologist gives a sense of how prominent academics lived in the early Soviet era: Obertreis At the same time, even the Kirov apartment, after uplotnenie, was in a socially "mixed" area Zakharova Ardis, I cite here from Bitov The successful writer Iulii German also lived in a separate flat with his family: Iakovchenko The study with the broadest historical and informational range is Gerasimova , which addresses the entire political, social, and legal framework of the communal apartment and changes to its status at different periods.
Utekhin is an interesting study of the daily life of the kommunalka in the late Soviet and post-Soviet period. Boym includes a chapter on the communal apartment, largely based on personal experience and observation. See also the fascinating 'virtual museum' set up by Il'ia Utekhin and Nancy Ries, http: For studies of Moscow, see Messana  ; Azarova There are some brief and general observations on communal life in Field Kitchens and bathrooms were shared, and family units would be assigned one room, with space allocated according to strictly defined official norms.
Larger rooms were divided into cubicles by partitions made of plywood. One of my own informants, N. But she was the daughter of a top-ranking 'Red commander', and even in these circumstances life had its stresses. She and her parents did not get on with the distant relations who lived in the other half of the flat, a situation that provoked all kinds of petty persecution for example, on one occasion these relatives organised a relay so that the lavatory was occupied for the entire evening when N.
Another woman with particularly unhappy memories of communal life was brought up in a flat inhabited by several generations of the same family. The pre-revolutionary apartment had been explicitly divided between the formal sections drawing room, dining room, hall, accessed by the paradnaia lestnitsa, or front staircase and the service sections, such as the kitchen and the servants' room if provided, otherwise servants were expected to sleep in the kitchen. These gave way to the chernaia lestnitsa 'black staircase', i.
Now, the entire apartment was, from an official point of view, living space of equal quality, assigned on the basis of its area, and the former 'service sections' were shared by all.
In these conditions, the room itself became 'home', with a sharp distinction between the family or individual's own territory and the 'common parts' or mesta obshchego pol'zovaniia, literally 'spaces in common use'. The only place in the 'common parts' that might be to a limited extent 'personalised' by tenants was the kitchen, which was used not just for cooking and often also for hanging laundry, but as the 'social centre of the CA [communal apartment], the basic place for meeting neighbours and interacting with them, the main stage for public events in the life of the flat' Utekhin While food was not, as a rule, left in kitchens for fear of theft, 37 There is a large literature on uplotnenie: Lebina ; Obertreis Petersburg, The kitchen was thus a kind of extension of 'home' into shared space.
Here, the light bulb was likely to be supplied by the individual family and only switched on by them as well, and there might well be a doormat, racks for shoes, and so on Utekhin Within the room, organisation was standardised to a high degree.
Space was organised round a small number of larger possessions. Some of these were functional—the dining table, the divan for sitting and sleeping on, wardrobes for storing clothes, or cupboards for household items both these pieces of furniture are known in Russian as shkafy. The shkafy might also be given a screening function, to allow minimal privacy to someone's sleeping arrangements: Figure 2. The kitchen in a kommunalka, showing the different caches of kitchenware belonging to several residents.
Note the blocked-up door, which may once have led to a dining room, or conversely, servant's room photograph by the author, So, the wardrobes divided off Mum and Dad's bed. But our [beds] simply stood there in the room, as divans. The big [bed], they partitioned that off in the corner.
And a big dining table, where I used to do my homework. As Gerasimova points out, in later decades of Soviet power, people who had spent years living together as neighbours often established a high degree of trust and might keep pieces of furniture and so on in the kitchen There are photographs of such arrangements on http: This was the mid- to late twentieth-century word for what in traditional usage was called a bufet.
Both words referred to a piece of furniture with shelves and glass-fronted doors as variously known in English by the words dresser, sideboard, display cabinet, shelving unit, etc. This was the place for keeping particularly valued or delicate possessions—porcelain tea cups, crystal vases, photographs, and so on—and also treats such as chocolate or alcoholic drinks.
The classic kommunalka, often discussed as though it were the standard type of Soviet domestic existence, represented only one type of communal habitation. In factory barracks and hostels, conditions were even more cramped, and a family's essential private space would be a bed.
In the recollection of one of our informants, born in And she [my mother] tramped round from hostel to hostel, and I went along with her. And so she lived, well, how did people used to live in those hostels? Sometimes, wardrobes and cupboards might be used instead of screens to divide up the room into different 'cubicles',48 but the end result in whatever case was a remarkably small amount of personal space for each family—perhaps four-five square metres at most.
The role of the servant is extensively discussed by Boym and Utekhin In Soviet days, they were usually of a standard sort: These could be stacked to form a multi-tiered bookcase. The shelves might also be used for displays of other objects, as in the servant. The communal apartments of Leningrad, often seen retrospectively as unique to the city, had analogues in other cultures—in the tenements and rooming houses of Berlin, Paris, London, and Glasgow, to name only a few examples.
One of these lay in the cultural capital of some of the kommunalka's inhabitants, who were able to commemorate their existence in authoritative ways, writing about the stresses of enforced collectivism from the inside.
Poorly maintained after , they rapidly declined into a state of Gothic decay. As the journalist Alexander Werth recalled, in , the building where he had once lived on ulitsa Gogolia now known by its pre-revolutionary name of Malaia Morskaia was in an almost unrecognisable condition: The white imitation marble walls were covered with dark, dirty-brown paint, and there was no sign of the well-scrubbed wooden steps with the red carpet and the carefully-preserved brass carpet rails [ No mirror, no coat-hangers—nothing.
Werth However, Werth, an outsider in Soviet Leningrad, was seeing communal life with an alienated eye. Diaries of the s, s, and s record many causes for irritation, but details such as damage to 'white imitation marble walls' were not among these. Utekhin , tend to represent informants' recollections of communitarianism as pure nostalgia, but evidence such as Gonchukov's testimony would suggest things are not quite so simple.
Figure 3. New blocks on prospekt Morisa Toreza, Leningrad, early s Ocherki sovremennogo sovetskogo iskusstva: Nauka, The percentage of those living in communal dwellings remained high. In , an article in Leningradskaia pravda newspaper gave it as 40 per cent; in , it was between 19 and 65 per cent, depending on district, with an average of 23 per cent across the city Bobchenok For a district profile, see also Tomchin and Raikova What was just as important, Leningraders with 'cultural capital' were particularly likely to be rehoused in such separate flats.
As noted above, even before the watershed, some such had inhabited separate apartments. However, isolated living became far more common during the s and s. A significant role in this was played by the rise of the housing co-operative, reintroduced in the late s as a way of tempting the cash-rich Soviet population to help fund new building, with the opportunity to shorten the wait in the housing queue as an incentive.
Co-operative members made an advance payment of 40 per cent of the cost price of a new apartment, set according to a state tariff that priced 12 metres of living space at 2, roubles and allowed members to acquire the right to inhabit up to 60 metres of living space.
The remaining 60 per cent of the fee was payable over 15 years at a rate of one per cent interest Catrell But a more important disincentive was that those applying for a place in a co-operative had to satisfy the same deficiency of living space conditions as those applying for a state flat.
If one shared a very large room in a kommunalka, one was ineligible. There is also the consideration that people's readiness to pay the deposit might vary depending on their attitudes to saving. Interview evidence suggests that working-class families often lived 'from paypacket to paypacket' otpoluchkidopoluchki and might at most put by enough for the annual holiday, expecting to spend what they had accumulated by the time they got back: Accordingly, the characteristic inhabitants of co-operative apartments were the educationally advantaged, what might be termed the 'Soviet middle class' including, but not limited to, the intelligentsia.
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