Living Like Communists - Soviet Union

Discussion in 'Members Corner' started by A.V., Sep 26, 2011.

  1. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

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    Soviet Communal Apartments Aren’t Dead Yet.
    Before 1917, when the worker became king and the city—his domain, over 80 percent of the Russian population did not live in cities. At the time of the Soviet Union’s fall roughly 70 years later, that ratio had been reversed, with the vast majority having at some point lived in a cramped communal apartment (kommunalka.) Following Russia’s capitalist revolution, some remained there. With a unique mixture of communist and capitalist elements permeating the modern kommunalka, does it still produce the same citizen who lived there in the 1950s and 1960s, and how much longer can the kommunalka persevere on a capitalist real estate market?
    Hidden among the five and six story houses located near Sukharevskaya metro station in central Moscow is one of the city’s remaining communal apartments, the interior of which is instantly recognizable by the chipped paint and dim lighting that became the hallmark of shared spaces in the Soviet Union, and, by inheritance, Russia. Yet as Mayram opens the door to one of the three occupied rooms in her five-room kommunalka, the juxtaposition couldn’t be more evident; her apartment is spacious, with clean wooden floors and a well-kept balcony renovated several years ago.
    Lina’s room, located next door, is far smaller, with just enough space to maneuver between a bed and a small desk. “It’s just girls here,” said Lina. “That makes it easier, and of course we split up the chores, but we think that we live together as if we were in a dormitory.” When she asks for interviews, she walks down the hallway amiably knocking on her neighbors’ doors—one pokes her head out, sleepily blinking her eyes, smiles, and then turns back to bed without even a word of reproach.
    From the Soviet perspective, the modern kommunalka at Sukharevskaya is entirely unrecognizable, yet it represents the last phase of the long transformation in housing in Russia that began with the revolution. The communal apartment emerged in Russia as a product of Lenin’s “uplotnyenie” (packing) proposal to pack workers into the homes of former aristocrats in the city centers. The Soviet authorities accordingly distributed spaces in large, multi-room apartments, dividing them up among families who then shared utilities, including bathrooms and kitchens, as well as equipment such as the telephone.
    During the years of purges that followed Stalin’s rise to power, the kommunalka was also one of the staples of the Soviet Union’s obsessive fascination with the surveillance state. “It was a very planned thing, and far more than just a way of fulfilling the class goals of the uplotnyenie. This was a system designed to force people to spy upon one another,” said Paola Messana, a French journalist and author of “Soviet Communal Living,” a collection of oral histories charting the development of the communal apartment. “During the difficult years of the 1930s and 1940s, the communal apartment was one of the best tools to allow the political police to find out who was listening to Voice of America and who had ties to the aristocratic classes.”
    In the 1950s and 1960s there was somewhat of a reversal of fortune for communal apartments, as the government attempted to move families into separate apartments, correctly gauging that the population was fed up. Under Nikita Khrushchev’s leadership, the Soviet Union began construction of five-story houses that quickly became known as “khrushchyovki,” after the leader. Messana described one woman who had long been living in a communal apartment’s attitude to this new housing, made from pre-fabricated concrete. “They were trash, they were terrible apartments, but for her it was a dream to get in to the ‘khrushchyovki.’”
    Kommunalki survived the Soviet period, but by the 1990s, privatization had led to government-supported depopulation—whereby developers bought out residents of kommunalki, renovated them and sold them on for the kind of profits that property booms in Russia’s major cities were making possible.
    The fact that at certain points during the Soviet Union, the majority of its citizens lived in a communal apartment, meant they became a shared, cultural phenomenon of the Soviet period. Vladimir Vysotsky, arguably Russia’s greatest folk singer, also penned a few lines on his experiences living in shared apartments. Long before his sojourn to Bolshoy Karetny, which he famously recalled in his song of the same name, Vysotsky moved into a communal apartment on Meshanskaya Street, roughly in the same neighborhood where Mayram and Lina have their new, spruced-up apartment. “Behind the wall there, behind the wall, behind the divider, neighbors spoiled each other with vodka. Everyone lived equally, humbly: the hallway system, 38 rooms and just one bathroom. Teeth chattering from the cold, no overcoat would warm you, here I truly found out a kopeck’s real worth,” he sang in his “Ballad about Childhood.” Sitting in Lina and Mayram’s self-styled “dormitory,” it’s hard to imagine Vysotsky moodily droning on about “surviving” Meshanskaya.
    The generation past
    Ultimately, the older generation of communal apartments and residents are dying out. In Lina and Mayram’s apartments, there are five rooms in all. Mayram lives closest to the front door, Lina is next, and then the young neighbor who sleepily poked her head out of the door, refusing to be interviewed. There are also two empty rooms in the apartment—one belongs to Lina’s ex-husband, which is currently vacant. The door to the other room is padlocked shut and painted white. Lyubov Petrovna, “the spirit of the old kommunalka,” as Mayram called her, lived here until she died several years ago.
    “We had tried at one point to get a boiler in here, so that we would finally get hot water in the apartment. I remember the arguments that we used to have over that, over anything in the kitchen and anything that required us to get her approval. She opposed any kind of change to the place—she lived in kommunalki for her entire life,” Mayram recalled.
    After her death, Mayram released a short documentary film on Lyubov’s life, where the camera fruitlessly chases after her as she resolutely moves about the kitchen and discusses her life in the apartments. Ultimately, her death was indicative of a cultural shift in which the particular heritage of communal apartments is increasingly being left to the Soviet era. As Ilya Utekhin, the founder of the virtual museum of Soviet Everyday Life, wrote, “for most of the younger generation, a kommunalka is what they see in movies that are set in the Soviet Union.”
    Everyone's and no one's
    St. Petersburg, the birthplace of the revolution, was also the birthplace of the communal apartment in Russia. With thousands of sprawling, pre-revolutionary apartments, and an influx of workers into the city, the state divided them up with gusto. Today, the city remains the undisputed king of the communal apartment in Russia. Though their number has decreased precipitously in all Russian cities since the fall of the Soviet Union, over 650,000 Petersburgers still live in communal apartments, according to data from the St. Petersburg Housing Committee.
    One of the city’s 100,000 or so remaining kommunalki is an eight-room apartment on Mokhovaya Street, on the top floor of an old, pre-revolutionary building. Entering the dim corridors of the apartment, a long, dusty hallway leads past a former anteroom to the right, which houses a young couple, then two empty rooms. With no direct sunlight, the hallway is dark until rounding the corner into the rear of the apartment, where a beam of light comes in from a small window in the bathroom. The back of the apartment holds another four rooms, housing several students and a family of four.
    Slowly but surely, thanks to the dual processes of capitalism and human mortality, the communal apartment itself is dying out, with vacant rooms like Lyubov Petrovna’s becoming more and more common. Zhenya, who has lived here since she inherited the room from her late mother, said that until recently she had been content living in the old apartment despite the lack of hot water. But the recent deaths of two pensioners in the room adjoining hers and across the hall have imbued the apartment with a “feeling of death,” and she is now looking to move out.
    Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the onset of privatization, the modern communal apartment has become a strange hybrid of the communist and capitalist systems—each person owns a room in the apartment, but the apartment itself has no owner, meaning that in an eerie way, the apartment belongs to everyone and no one at the same time. As long as each resident doesn’t sell his right to a room in the communal apartment, no one can sell the space in its entirety.
    The result is that there are similar problems with the upkeep for collective spaces from the Soviet period, but that the room has become a veritable fiefdom of the owner—in other words, his property. Privatized rooms have begun to take some of the communal out of communal living, notes Utekhin. With complete ownership over the rooms, new owners don’t need to officially notify or negotiate with their neighbors to rent out rooms, or, in an extreme case he writes about, can partition their rooms into five sleeping areas and then rent them out to a troop of Moldovans. The behavior of the Moldovans led to items disappearing around the house, and eventually a note from another dweller threatening to call the immigration services if a spray bottle was not returned to the kitchen.
    Yet far more important is that the end of communism has deprived the kommunalka of the shared experience that an entire generation of Soviet people had. “The kommunalka today is the remnants of what the kommunalka was in the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union it still had an ideology, so you had something that was keeping the whole thing together. Then everything collapsed, the system collapsed, and in came the new values, and they are money. So if you have money, you can live very well, and if you don’t have money, you can live in a communal apartment,” said Messana.
    In the Soviet Union, noted Sofia Dyak, the director of the Center for Urban History of Eastern Europe, despite popular conceptions that the Soviet Union was a property-less state, there were dissenting voices that apartments which gave a semblance of privacy and were transferrable to their kin were the closest that one came to property. “It’s not true that in the Soviet Union there was no property,” said Dyak. “Some saw their communal apartments as private property, which some experts are now noting. Yet with so little privacy, it became all the more clear in the communal apartment just how little you had.”
    Dying a slow death
    What is increasingly developing is a stalemate between the current dwellers, who want to take advantage of rising prices in rooms to sell them off at a healthy profit and enough to get an apartment, and developers who want to renovate many of the apartments, which are often located in prime real estate in city centers. Mayram, who bought her room about six years ago, said the price had doubled and it is now worth $ 100,000. “Yet why would I want to move out of here, away from the center and into some apartment on the edge of Moscow? I am planning to stay here,” said Mayram.
    “I am convinced that people will stay in those apartments until they die,” said Messana. “Yet when they do, their relatives will not be so quick to fill those spots, and what their deceased grandparents would have sold for a quarter of a million dollars they might be willing to part with for a fifth of that.”
    This is a process that is not just happening in Russia, but all over the former Soviet Union, as the old apartments slowly disappear. Dyak noted that in Odessa, for instance, the market had slowly begun to wear down some of the last remaining communal apartments in Ukraine.

    Living Like Communists | Features & Opinion | RIA Novosti




     
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  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    I read a RD survey.

    The most patriotic people in the world were the Russians and the Chinese.

    So, maybe that is plus for the Communist regimes.
     
  4. xXX-Nair:::Saab-XXx

    xXX-Nair:::Saab-XXx Regular Member

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    Lap of Goddess Mother India...
    Sad that Didnt Include Indians like me...who Treat there Country as Mother & God...
     
  5. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

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    Sir i dont think its due to communism its due to a thought process.

    keeping the human desire list short and even expect less form the state .
     
  6. Iamanidiot

    Iamanidiot Elite Member Elite Member

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    Most patriotic indians in India..Bongs and Mallu's
     
  7. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    We know that you are idiot and dumb from your avatar and signature but do qualify statements that you make with some substance :D. It will be helpful for others to understand what you are trying to say.
     
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  8. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

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    dd praveen probably means that these two states are the ones with communists as form the previous reply communists= more patriotic

    but its just a co-incidence i would say , its more of the nature of the thought process , i bet germans are more patriotic so are the turks.
     
  9. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    AV, i'm only asking JP, on which basis he came to this conclusion. By his statement, did he mean people from other states are less patriotic?
     
  10. Iamanidiot

    Iamanidiot Elite Member Elite Member

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    Aren't commies supposed to be more patriotic than others??
     
  11. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Tell us, how so, in the indian context.
     
  12. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

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    Yes thats what on what thing you are basing that statement
     
  13. Adux

    Adux Senior Member Senior Member

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    True blue Commies arent patriots, simply because for them the their ideology triumphs over other indicators of a nation state.
     
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  14. Adux

    Adux Senior Member Senior Member

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    Bullshit! Ask them about China. Heck, Ask them about the destruction of Pakistan, at the hands of USA, they will say it is a bad thing. They are against oour relationship with Israel, even if it is in our benefit.
     
  15. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

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    True communists believe in ideals thats above a few lines marked on map.
     
  16. Adux

    Adux Senior Member Senior Member

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    For a lot of people those lines are much more than ink. Less said about communist ideals the better.
     
  17. Phenom

    Phenom Regular Member

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    Only when their own country is communist, when its not and if the country has a communist enemy, then things get murky.

    Just some example, almost all the support that China got within India during the Sino-Indian war came from the communists. Almost all the Americans involved in transferring US nuclear technology to Soviet Union in the early 50s were also communists.
     
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  18. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

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    Definitely shows soemthing
     
  19. Godless-Kafir

    Godless-Kafir DFI Buddha Senior Member

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  20. Adux

    Adux Senior Member Senior Member

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    Why did you delete that awesome video. Those boobies were Art not porn! Are we in Pakistan? People who dont like boobies should join Al-Qaeeda!
     
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  21. LurkerBaba

    LurkerBaba Staff Administrator

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    Unfortunately our government has certain laws on internet boobies :(
     

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