What is a communal apartment? Wikipedia gives this answer: “Communal apartments appeared in Tsarist Russia. The term communal apartments is a product of the Soviet epoch. The concept of communal apartments’ grew in Russia and Soviet Union as a response to a housing crisis in urban areas – authorities presented them as a product of the “new collective vision of the future”. Between two and seven families typically shared a communal apartment. Each family had its own room, which often served as a living room, dining room, and bedroom for the entire family. All the residents of the entire apartment shared the use of the hallways, kitchen (commonly known as the “communal kitchen”), bathroom and telephone (if any). The communal apartment became the predominant form of housing in the USSR for generations, and examples still exist in “the most fashionable central districts of large Russian cities”.
After the 1917 Revolution the apartments of rich people were nationalized by the state and given to the work class. However not on a one apartment per family basis but rather one room per family or per person. So the property of rich people became populated by poor people room by room.
Since it was a “communal” or joint property, people cared little about renovating those places and just lived each in its own room.
So these old beautiful apartments remained relatively untouched by modern Soviet renovation and still have the charm of the pre-revolution epoch, though they were pretty much ruined by generations of people living there.
And since St.Petersburg was the capital of the Tsarist Russia it had the most luxurious apartments there.
And here are the shots of some of them, surviving Communist Russia and now some of them are still continuing to be “communal” property in modern day capitalism Russia.
Though in the early 1990s it was a trend among the new rich people to buy those, room by room, from different families and get it all back to one family. Though all those bought-back apartments were ruined by modern era renovation techniques.
And old “communal” properties still display the pre-revolution decoration which is sometimes really stunning like this ceiling in a room occupied for ages by a regular working family.
Just browse these photos. They are very eclectic, you probably can’t see this mix of three eras anywhere else except in St.Petersburg’s communal properties.
Hope you enjoyed them!