Friday, February 24, 2017

Khrushchyovka! The rise and fall of typical Soviet-era housing in Russia.

The video here offers an "upscale" example, based on what I've seen.

Khrushchyovka! Typical USSR Apartment Building. "Real Russia" ep.17

In this video we'll show you how is the famous typical USSR apartment building, known as "Khrushchyovka" looks like and visit my friend Nataly, who lives in one of Khrushchyovka apartments that to show you how it looks like not only outside but inside as well.

"Khrushchyovka" is a type of low-cost, cement-paneled or brick three- to five-storied apartment building which was developed in the USSR during the early 1960s, during the time its namesake Nikita Khrushchev directed the Soviet government.

Hope you enjoy!

Now that you've seen a typical Khrushchyovka ...

Moscow to demolish 8,000 Soviet-era housing blocks

Moscow city authorities are to tear down about 8,000 blocks of flats built in the 1950s and 1960s in a major clearance programme that will involve rehousing 1.6 million people in the coming years, it's reported.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told a council meeting on Wednesday that the decision follows a positive review of an earlier, more modest demolition of about 1,700 of the low-rise prefabricated buildings known throughout the former Soviet states as "Khrushchyovkas", Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reports.

Back in 2012, I read a book about manufactured housing in the former Czechoslovakia, and reviewed it in ON THE AVENUES. It is reprinted here.


The late Vaclav Havel famously referred to them as “rabbit hutches,” and even today, more than two decades after the end of the Communist period, one-third of all Czechs inhabit pre-fabricated, modular housing blocks, particularly ones erected with increasing haste and decreasing art from the 1960’s through the 1980’s.

To stand on Castle Hill in the middle of architecturally glorious Prague and look outward toward the suburbs is to view what first appears to be a gray wall around the city. Actually, the wall is an optical illusion, a composite of these modular housing blocks in seemingly endless rows.

All across the former East Bloc, the Communist period witnessed the construction of high-rise housing units like these, quickly manufactured elemental housing that left travelers with an indelible image of a commensurately grim and manufactured life, but as Kimberly Elman Zarecor explains in her book, “Manufacturing a Socialist Modernity: Housing in Czechoslovakia, 1945-1960”, the story was at least a bit different there.

Because Czechoslovakia was the industrial heartland of the deceased Austro-Hungarian Empire, its income levels and educational attainment were above the norm during the period between the wars. Avant-garde and modernist schools of architecture in German, Scandinavia and France were represented by Czechoslovak architects in their projects of the time, and overall, the future seemed bright for the country’s development as a stable, liberal democracy.

Successive Nazi and Soviet occupations deferred this dream for almost a half-century, with a lasting and sometimes quite ugly contribution to the area’s physical landscape.

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, with a pressing need for housing reconstruction, and amid the forced imperative to organize the economy according to Communist principles of heavy industry, Czechosolvak architects fought gamely, for the most part as socialist loyalists, to retain their interwar aesthetic. There were some initial successes, but their influence steadily declined as Communist rule tightened and five-year production quotas submerged all other considerations.

After Stalin’s death put an end to the worst excesses of enforced socialist realism, which in practice meant emulating the Soviet dictator’s grandiose, leaden, Commie Gothic personal tastes, housing in Czechoslovakia became an exercise in the rapidity of modular manufacturing, with assembly-line construction far more utilitarian than any purpose-designed building, and on the cheap, with sloppily pre-cast concrete panels bolted together in stacks as high as engineering principles permitted.

Manufactured housing in Communist Czechoslovakia may have been inevitable, but Zarecor deftly shows that the route from free-form blueprint to rabbit hutch was more winding than commonly assumed, even if the end results were the same. What will the outskirts of Prague look like in twenty more years? I can only hope I’m still around to return there, and to experience the visceral reaction at another, perhaps less jarring, time.

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