From “Stalin” to “brezhnevka”. How to solve the housing problem in the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union has left modern Russian society an impressive legacy: from the first flights into space to the foundations of modern housing — panel houses. The twentieth century was radically changed the usual Russian man way of life: we moved from villages to cities, from the barracks — communal, communal — in standard high-rises. From Kaliningrad to Vladivostok grew like mushrooms in the city, to build socialism, and with it, a small kitchen and combined bathroom.

How it all began

The housing problem is particularly acute stood in front of the Soviets in the early 50-ies. Prior to this the socialist society was full of other things: industrialization, electrification, struggle against counter-revolution, the struggle against fascism, General rejoicing over the victory on all these fronts and, finally, commit it all into a “Stalinist Empire.” Widely known fact that the building of Moscow state University on Sparrow hills with its columns, stucco and mosaic, which cost 2 billion 631 million 200 thousand Soviet rubles. For that amount you could build a small industrial town of five-story panel houses on forty thousand inhabitants.

The building of Moscow state University named after M. V. Lomonosov (MSU) on Lenin (Sparrow) hills. 1954. Photo: RIA Novosti

The living conditions of Soviet people in post-war time it was difficult to call normal. By the beginning of the “thaw” in the cities, the average supply of illposed barely exceeded five square metres with established sanitary norm of nine. The successor to the Stalin leadership was seriously concerned with the replacement (at best) room door-the settlement — otherwise, social tensions among the masses was inevitable. Shortage of housing, and at the same time to give Soviet citizens hope for a brighter future, it was decided to “production” method — quick, cheap and plenty. The architects were given the task of the industrialization and typification of architecture, and, consequently, was required a fundamental restructuring of the design business and the reorganization of the construction as a whole.

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“Ragged” Stalinka

Serial housing construction began to develop in the Soviet Union under Stalin — typical brick five-story building in the postwar period were built with workers ‘ quarters and the outskirts of the city. From “Khrushchev” “the workers Stalinka” featured not only a large size of rooms and ceiling height, but the variability in the series — the project involved, often one-, two – and trichodynia apartment building, Dorm corridor type, corner buildings and non-residential premises. Typical Stalinist building was quite different from the elegant “bureaucratic accommodation” of that time, the facades of the buildings were nearly flat, however, a standard stucco is still present.

Of course, dominant in the architecture style was “brake” on the path of accelerated mass construction. Under the auspices of the optimization architecture, it was decided to prohibit at all, besides “struggle against frills” extremely well fit into the concept of de-Stalinization. The resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the USSR Council of Ministers dated 4 November 1955 No. 1871 “On elimination of excesses in designing and construction” outlined the new direction of development of Soviet architecture. “Working Stalinka”, the construction of which continued until the late 50’s, now completely lost any decoration (for which he was popularly called “ragged”), and the first “Khrushchev” and does have a model of modesty embodied in reinforced concrete panels.

New houses built in 1959 for the workers of Ilyich plant for highway Nagatinskaya in Moscow. Photo: RIA Novosti/ Dmitry Kozlov

Close “Khrushchev”

The main measure aesthetics construction was “efficiency”. To justify such a faceless, colorless mass building terms excellent could not, but because assistance was designed marksisko-leninista philosophy, with its desire for universal equality and brotherhood. Thus appeared the first of the famous “Khrushchev”.

The forerunners of the “Khrushchev” began cinder block “Stalinka” — the first prefabricated building arrived in Moscow on the territory of the district Falcon mountain back in 1947, however, the mass construction of such houses began only in the second half of the fifties. They, along with the first artificial Earth satellite powered icebreaker “Lenin” and the biggest in the world passenger aircraft Tu-114, was shown at the Soviet exhibition of 1959 in new York. On the layout where the costs of accelerated construction were not visible, “Khrushchev” looks real pride of the socialist society.

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In fact, deprived of “architectural excesses” they were a panel and brick three – and five – storey building without Elevator and trash chute. Optimization of mass construction was achieved by making the maximum number of construction elements in the factory. In some projects, it was proposed to produce on the plants the whole apartment with all utilities, but none of them had been implemented. The first design had a steel frame, and later in order to save began to construct precast concrete, and since the beginning of the 60’s- house and does have frameless (load-bearing structures they served as internal and external walls of concrete slabs).

Every fourth of “Khrushchev,” is the home of the I-507. They are better than many other standard designs: in the apartment kitchen a little more (up to 7 sq m) floors from hollow-core flooring is denser, and panels of external walls more than solid, however, and the area of some rooms kadratnykh barely exceeds 3.5 meters. Considered the highest quality home with brick exterior walls the I-528 — in their food increased to 7-13 square meters and ceiling height to 2.7 m, there is a parquet floor and framed doors. These houses began to appear only in the mid-sixties, for which they are often referred to as the early “brezhnevka”.

Cold “brezhnevki”

A new phase of model construction was marked, primarily, by increasing the height of residential buildings up to 9, 12, 14 and 16 meters. In addition, under Brezhnev was much improved planning decisions (almost disappeared from the projects are adjacent and communicating rooms), apartments became more spacious, there were chutes and elevators, and the construction of some series was used calcium silicate bricks. A classic example of “brezhnevok” is a frame-and-brick “tower of Volya”, designed by the architect Yefim Vulyha (under his leadership was also developed by Smirnoff and Tishinsky series of typical residential buildings).

Tower Vulyha in Chelyabinsk. Photo: Creative commons/ Dmitry Sagdeev

Despite significant progress in construction technologies and design, most of the shortcomings of “Khrushchev” exhibit and “brezhnevka”. However, despite the small rooms, narrow corridors with low ceilings, poor sound insulation and problems with thermoregulation, construction of prefabricated panel houses continued until the end of the 80s.

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