What Are Typical Russian Apartments?

What Are Typical Russian Apartments?
08 July 2016

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

Posted by Lawrence Toye

Привет Everyone! My name is Lawrence, I’m 21, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the UK, and I’m pleased to say I’m the new social media intern at Liden&Denz Moscow for the next 5 weeks. This is only my first day in Moscow, so I still have so much to see and take in! I love learning languages and spent last year living in the Middle East and studying Arabic. When I started studying at politics and economics at university last September, I couldn’t resist doing a language course alongside. Even though I could’ve probably picked an easier language, I felt Russian would be the most rewarding. I was right! Despite the frequently confusing grammar, in particular the cases, I thoroughly enjoyed it. As I’ve finished university for the summer, I decided to come here to to Liden&Denz to improve my Russian, and learn more about Russian culture. This is only my first full day in Russia, and I’m really excited to write about my thoughts, insights, and experiences of Moscow and learning Russian.

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