Возврат на главную страницу Возврат на главную страницу Возврат на главную страницу Возврат на главную страницу Возврат на главную страницу
Entries / Communal Apartments

Communal Apartments

Categories / City Services/Housing and Communal Services

COMMUNAL APARTMENTS. The word combination "communal apartments" is a product of the Soviet epoch. However, first communal apartments appeared in the early 18th century, when rental lodging was partitioned by the landlords into "corners", often walk-through tiny dwellings. From the mid-19th century the number of such apartments had drastically increased. Usually they consisted of 3 to 6 rooms, with one kitchen (and a common lavatory, one per floor); these apartments housed from 3 to 6 families. In the 1860s, after N.G. Chernyshevsky's novel What Is to be Done? was published, there appeared the so called communal hostels, when several young families rented an apartment consisting of 2-4 rooms (e.g., the Loginovskaya Commune 1863-65 in the house of Stenbock-Fermor, 70 Griboedova Canal Embankment, where composer M.P. Mussorgsky also resided). After 1917 the concept of the communal way of life became the state policy (at the time it was seen as a way to solve the housing situation in the city). The apartments, expropriated from former homeowners were divided into many smaller rooms, occupied by the families of workers and Soviet establishment employees (decor of many buildings was damaged in the process). By the end of the 1920s communal apartments accounted for 70% of the city’s housing facilities, the number of rooms in apartments ranged from 5 to 8 and sometimes reached as many as 18 and more. Communal (shared) conveniences did not always meet standard requirements (there were no bathrooms, one lavatory was shared by all dwellers, etc.); as a result by the 1970-80s up to 5% of the city's residential facilities were not fit for living. In the 1930s there appeared the idea of setting up communal homes with better organized public facilities, however such homes were not numerous (the most famous is the House of Political Convicts), mostly such buildings served as hostels, retirement homes, etc.. In the 1940-50s there emerged the so-called “system” apartment houses with apartments aligned in a row along the corridor, like in a hostel (2 Tchaikovsky Street and others). A new strategy in home-building sphere was proclaimed in the late 1950s under the motto A Separate Apartment for Each Family. However the new block buildings called "khruschevki” (after N.S. Khruschev) (five-storey blocks of flats) did not improve the situation with the communal apartments, as "podselenie" - the state policy, when a family moving into a new apartment got another lodger as a makeweight, was not uncommon through the late 1980s. Family split-ups, divorces, residents’ moving out in due time turned a separate apartment into a communal one, as a result by the mid-1980s the number of communal apartments in the new ("bedroom") districts went up to 20% of the total residential housing area in these districts. Large-scale home-building in the new districts failed to tackle the problem. In the late 1980s the number of communal apartments in downtown districts accounted for 40% of all the residential housing. Up to the mid-1980s the system of providing temporary apartments (to municipal communal service staff, public personnel etc.) was still in use, considerably hampering the relocation process for the dwellers of communal apartments through apartment exchange and the administrative system. Unserviceable housing in the 1970-80s was converted into what was called "manoeuvre" (temporary) housing, used for temporary accommodation of families resettled from dilapidated buildings. The reforms of 1990-91 gave an incentive to relocating residents of communal apartments; the emergence of the housing market led to higher prices for apartments downtown, and the buy-up of those apartments through real-estate agencies. However, the percentage of communal apartments in St. Petersburg still remains high (according to official data communal apartments still take up 35-38% of the housing stock downtown and over 10% of the total housing stock). The fewest number of communal apartments can be found in the so called golden triangle: between Zhukovskogo Street, Mayakovskogo Street, Liteiny Avenue and Nevsky Prospect, and the largest number in some districts of Petrogradskaya Side and Vasilievsky Island. Many communal apartment residents strive to improve their living conditions (install bathtubs, split large apartments into 2 smaller apartments, etc.). According to the data as of 2002, St. Petersburg ranked first in the nation as having the most communal apartments.

Reference: Утехин И. В. Очерки коммунального быта. М., 2001.

Y. N. Kruzhnov.

Chernyshevsky Nikolay Gavrilovich
Mussorgsky Modest Petrovich
the Stenbock-Fermors

Griboedova Canal Embankment/Saint Petersburg, city, house 70
Liteiny Ave/Saint Petersburg, city
Mayakovsky St./Saint Petersburg, city
Nevsky prospect/Saint Petersburg, city
Tchaikovskogo St./Saint Petersburg, city, house 2
Zhukovskogo Street/Saint Petersburg, city

Молчина Ю. Эпоха расселений завершается // Частн. недвижимость, 2003
Утехин И.В. Очерки коммунального быта. М., 2001
Виртуальный музей "Коммунальная квартира". 2001. URL: http://www.kommunalka.spb.ru, 15.09.2003

The subject Index
House of Tsarist Political Prisoners