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Russia: Farewell to “Khrushchevki”

Earlier this week, LJ user drugoi, one of the most popular and prolific Russian bloggers, posted 17 photos from a Moscow neighborhood of Khrushchev-era apartment blocks, commonly known as khrushchevki, pyatietazhki, or khrushchoby. The neighborhood is about to disappear, to make room for more up-to-date residential high-rises.

Here's some of the text that accompanies drugoi‘s photo report (RUS), which has generated 331 comments:

Khrushchevki of the early 1960s are being demolished in south-western Moscow. Five-story buildings, with no balconies, with tiny kitchens, [box-like toilet-and-bathroom spaces], thin walls separating the apartments, allowing residents to hear everything that's going on in their neighbors’ places – their time is up. Whole blocks of pyatietazhki [five-story buildings] have been deserted by their former owners and are left face to face with powerful machinery that's methodically taking down one house after another. When excavators and bulldozers [are done with their job], nothing but a flat, empty site remains where people still lived quite recently. My contemporaries were born and grew up in these pyatietazhki, they had their children there, and these children have had the time to produce grandchildren for [their parents]. Several generations have spent their lives in khrushchoba-houses [khrushchoba derives from trushchoba, a slum, and can be loosely translated as “Khrushchev slums”]. With their help, Muscovites were rescued from factory barracks and the horrible Soviet kommunalki [communal apartments], they provided young families with their first housing and gave old people peace and hot water in their own, albeit small, bathroom. All in all, thank you, pyatietazhki.

[…]

Resettling residents of such pyatietazhki is quite an ordeal. In the years they've spent here, they've managed to assemble numerous relatives around them, close and not so, everything is intertwined in a monstrous kind of way, every family has its own history of relationships, while the number of apartments provided by the city authorities for free isn't endless. Commissions dealing with the cases of the “resettlers” constantly run into problems: some don't like the new housing, others try to get themselves bigger apartments, try to move away from their children, grandparents, ex-wives and ex-husbands with whom they share the same living space.

[…]

Andrei is the last resident of this pyatietazhka. He's been in a legal battle with the local authorities for a year now. According to him, the situation is crazy: for the past five years, he's been sharing a small two-room apartment with his ex-wife, her new husband and their five dogs. He was asking to be resettled into two rooms, at least, in communal apartments, in different locations. But the resettlement commission is offering the former spouses one two-room apartment in a new building. City court has reinforced the commission's decision. Gas has already been turned off in the [old] building, but there's still water and electricity. No one knows what to do next.

Andrei says that nearly everyone in their building had problems with resettlement. On the one hand, it's understandable that people would like to solve the most difficult of all issues – housing – in one blow, but on the other hand, the state is basically giving them living space worth hundreds of thousands dollars for free, so the battles that are raging are indeed deadly.

[…]

[photo of a woman standing by the half-demolished building, talking to another one inside the building]

- Sveta, have you by any chance seen my old sneakers somewhere around here?

[…]

They aren't resettling people from pyatietazhki to [remote areas] anymore, but are giving them apartments right here, two blocks away from their old houses.

[…]

[last photo, of a newly-built high-rise]

In this building, people from khrushchevki are starting their new lives.

Here are some of the responses to drugoi‘s photo report; a few are from bloggers living in other former Soviet states – Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania:

danatjan:

Old Soviet wallpaper is the most poignant thing about the pictures of the houses being demolished.

***

el_finik:

Strange that khrushchevki in Minsk [Belarus] looked totally different – with balconies, etc. – and no one is tearing them down :)

cheremis:

A different series. In Moscow, there are pyatietazhki that aren't up for demolition – normally, they are made of bricks and have balconies. The ones in the photos were intended to be used for 40 years, and [Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov] is, in a way, fulfilling the plans of the Soviet government ))

***

zlena:

It's even sad somehow… I was also born and grew up in a similar khrushchevka. It's my home. Though my khrushchevka is in Kyiv, and it's probably gonna be there for a long time still.

***

4lynch:

Some photos are as if they were taken in Chernobyl… Beautiful!

***

katerinishe:

Would be great to leave one building intact and create a museum of interior and everyday life in it. To be able, later, to recognize things that surrounded you as a child or stuff that your grandmother had.

***

nito_os:

I grew up in a khrushchevka, too, and I live in it still. But here in Lithuania they aren't demolishing them, quite the opposite: they are repairing them and build an extra story on top, to pay less for repairs. Khrushchevki will survive us all!

4 comments

  • Thank you for the article, Veronica. The material was fascinating. The Khrushchevki are part of a poignant past era – a reminder of what our grandparents and great-grandparents had to go through, in their unbearable struggles to build what we have now.

    I saw Minsk’s versions of the Krushchevki during my visit to the Belarusian capital this past December. My flat might have been in one of those buildings converted into more modern flats. It was fairly nice inside, but the structure itself was in serious deterioration. Many of the concrete high-rise structures in Minsk, were deteriorating. The only explanation for that could be poor quality concrete.

    My visit to Minsk was to enjoy Minsk the way it is. It’s a great city. The people are wonderful. They’ll go out of their way to help you. Belarusians are hard-working, educated, full of potential, and will contribute enormously to European civilization in the future.

  • Although I can’t read Russian, I’ve seen the pictures. All I could think about was: how many dreams and expectations might have been held behind those walls.
    Thanks Veronica for letting us know about this.
    All the best from Peru.

  • […] You’d have to demolish half of Vilnius to eradicate that most pervasive of all Soviet icons, the apartment block. And what will become of ‘Stalin World’? Berlin city council gave up trying to demolish all the […]

  • […] housing problem with the mass production of five story, box like apartment buildings.  The “khrushchevki” provided relief, gave many their own apartments, but were hardly aesthetic or structural […]

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