A Cookie-Cutter Life

How does the modern Russian person live? Just about the same way Russians have been living since the early 1960s.

Between a rock and a hard place

In an attempt to solve the issue of overcrowding in major cities, the Soviet government under Nikita Khrushev devised a plan to mass-produce apartment buildings. The goal was to move everyone out of communal living and into public housing. The new apartments gave residents the freedom of personal ownership, but were also very small and poorly constructed. This option was hardly ideal. The public would come to call these apartments khrushchovki (хрущёвки) after Khrushev.

Khrushchovki are still the most typical living arrangement across Russia, including in larger cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg. Take a look at this short video tour of a khrushchovka, to learn about how Russians live today:

Make sure when you enter someone else’s house, that you take off your shoes. Usually, your host will provide you with tapachki (тапачки) (slippers) to wear while you are in the house.

Practice your Russian: Sanuzel (санузел) or tualet (туалет)?

Practice your Russian with the following words about living arrangements. Notice all the different types of bathrooms that Russians have!

  • kommunal’naya kvartira (коммунальная квартира) – communal apartment
  • kommunalka (коммуналка) – communal apartment
  • tipovoye zhil’yo (типовое жильё) – cookie-cutter apartment
  • khrushchovka (хрущёвка) – cookie-cutter apartment
  • komnata (комната) – room
  • kukhn’a (кухня) – kitchen
  • spal’nya (спальня) – bedroom
  • prikhozhiya (прихожия) – entryway
  • vannaya (ванная) – bathroom (contains a bath only)
  • sanuzel (санузел) – combined toilet and bathroom
  • tualet (туалет) – toilet (or bathroom with only a toilet and sink)

Movie Recommendation: Enjoy your bath

The cookie-cutter aspect of хрущёвки apartment buildings is commented on in the funny Soviet romantic comedy, “The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath.” The movie is full of footage of Russian apartments and daily life.

If you have a chance, rent it before you travel to Russia!