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Kommunalki in St.Petersburg

15 January, 2015

There are various kommunalki in St.Petersburg. Коммуналки, kommunalki or communal apartments, began to develop after the 1917 revolution. Communal apartments are shared apartments in city centers, often shared between roughly 5 families. Each family would have the government assign them a room in an apartment, the size of which was determined by the number of people in the family. The bathroom and the kitchen were shared by all members of the apartment, and often inhabitants would try to separate the space. In one small kitchen you would find 5 small kitchen tables, one for each family. These apartments were inhabited in a communal fashion due to a housing crisis created by large amounts of people moving to urban centers for work. Additionally, living in these residences was encouraged as a way to change Russian culture and move forward as a communist society.

St.Petersburg, or Leningrad at the time, became the communal capital of Russia, as it is the city with the most kommunalki in all of the country. This is due to St.Petersburg’s history of being an imperial city where aristocrats lived. This history made for many large pre-Revolutionary apartments to divide into kommunalki.

Today, some of these apartments are still being lived in communally. Others have been renovated into apartments, cafes, and hostels. Hostel 1912 in St.Petersburg is an example of a kommunalka that was renovated into a hostel. The building was built before the revolution as an apartment building for the wealthy inhabitants of the city, and after the revolution it was converted into communal living. The hostel owners completely renovated the whole space, and they have a small display of some of the items that they found in the kommunalka during the project.

There are many opportunities for travelers to see a kommunalka first hand. There are tours of St.Petersburg that will take you to see preserved apartments, such as this one, or there are apartment museums that can be visited without a tour guide, that are dispersed throughout the city. Another option is Kommunalka Art Cafe, or one of the hostels that is a renovated apartment, such as Hostel 1912 or Kommunalka Guest House.

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