What Are Typical Russian Apartments?
Typical Russian apartments
If you live in Western Europe or America, you may be taken aback by the lack of houses in Russian cities. In the UK most families live in houses (even in big cities), whereas except for summer houses (dachas), Muscovites live almost exclusively in apartments.
Origins of the traditional Russian apartment
The apartment blocks you probably saw as you drove into Moscow originate from the Soviet times. The Soviet Union considered “personal space” to be anti revolutionary. As a result, they wanted to make every apartment identical across Russia. However, this proved difficult to achieve, and sizes of apartments vary with the time at which they were built.
After the revolution, the government confiscated apartments owned by aristocrats and divided them into multi-family communal apartments. Nonetheless, this didn’t solve the housing shortage. Stalin began a programme to build more “Kommunalki”. In these apartments families had separate bedrooms, but shared a common bathroom, toilet and kitchen.
After Stalin’s death, the Krushchev period began and the government began to provide single family flats (Krushchevkis) instead. However, the rapid pace of construction meant that the new flats tended to be relatively small.
Inside a Krushchevki
Usually Russians refer to houses by the number of rooms and do not count the kitchen or the bathroom as a room. As flats are relatively small in size, Russians have become good at making use of the little space available. Traditionally, Russians built apartments without what westerners would call a living room. Bedrooms can be multi purpose and even double up as a dining room, although it is common for a small table to be in the kitchen. The bathroom usually consists of two rooms, a toilet in a separate room to the basin and the bath/shower.
Typically, the government controls the heating system in the older apartment blocks. The heating is switched on from late autumn until late spring, however, for three weeks in summer, hot water is switched off to repair the pipes. More modern and wealthier homes may have their own heating systems and therefore avoid the uncomfortable period of cold showers.
Modern Russian Homes
After the fall of the Soviet Union, many people gained ownership of their apartments. There are also a more varied range of homes on the market, from very basic to very exclusive. Home ownership is a dream for many, but because of the steep cost of a mortgage and ever increasing demand, it often remains just that: a dream.
Lawrence Toye, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz Moscow