Communal Living in the Soviet Union





Communal Living in the Soviet Union

Research Question

How did socialism influence urbanization in the Soviet Union and its relations with the rest of the world?


Soviet national police was developed and implemented by nationalists. The history of Russia as a country can only be termed as cataclysmic and urbanized. During the 20th century, Russia experience a number of events such as the revolution, involvement on global conflict, rural collectivization  and adopting a central planning system that resulted in collapse. Such traumatic events have had a significant effect on the urbanization and demographic shifts experienced by Russia (Bater 239).

Critics claim that the superficial continuous growth and high levels of urbanization, the revolution and military events played a critical role in the demographic shifts experienced in the Soviet Union. The soviet system was able to achieve achieved a relatively high level of urbanization that enabled industrialization and continuous economic growth. The collectivist culture in rural areas served to aid industrial investments, which were harmful. In addition, urban activity and populations were not in appropriate locations. In addition other considerations such as minimization of input-supply cost were not considered, as the favor was directed towards political and military objectives and more so ensured the dispersion of industrialization and creation of the proletariat across the USSR (Brumfield, William and Ruble 53).

The non-market objectives exposed a significant number of the cities at the decline of the Soviet Union, which meant that the breakdown of the central planning system of the Soviet Union would be accompanied by extensive spatial restructuring. Critics suggest that the collapse of the Soviet Union contributed towards the stagnation in urbanization and population growth over the past few decades. The emergence of the Soviet Union and its entire central planning system brought about unwanted consequences, even after its dissolution. The spatial mismatch brought about extensive intra-urban area adjustments even in vibrant locations.

Per capita housing during the soviet era was restricted with industrial areas being interspersed with residential settings. Central cities had impressive infrastructure, whereas USSR was not considered as a private automobile-oriented led to congestion and dilapidated infrastructure. Communal housing in the soviet era was attributed o the intensive industrial and urban development experienced at the start of the 20th century (Czaplicka, Ruble and Crabtree 71). The government failed to prioritize housing, unit the late 1950s. During the revolution in 1917, an estimated 80% of the total population living in Russia resided in rural towns and villages. At the start of 1990, more than 80% of the population was residing in urban areas, which is an illustration of the dramatic shift from rural to urban areas when compared to other nations.

Poverty and extensive levels of privation been termed as some of the primary reasons that brought about rapid migration from rural into urban areas. In addition, official industrialization encouraged and at times coerced the population to move into urban areas. Between the 1920s and 1950s, a large number of families were living in communal housing, while a majority of them lived in deplorable conditions in dormitories or barracks destined for mass housing of laborers.

For a majority of families in the soviet era, gaining a communal apartment signaled an improvement in housing opportunities especially if it was within the most advanced cities and locations such as Moscow and Leningrad. A majority of the families living in rural areas sought employment in the urban cities to be enrolled into the communal housing scheme.

The housing scheme was a government initiative and was distributed by the municipal authorities and other government departments based on the number of square meters necessary for each individual. Tenants were provided with minimal opportunities to exercise their preference on the type of house they wanted. Payment of rent for communal services such as electricity and water was not a significant portion of the budget of a given family. Such costs were subsided by the government (Brumfield, William and Ruble 45). The access to housing for a majority of the population was reliant on their social positions and more so employment status. Until the 1970s, a majority of families lived in single rooms in communal apartments, with incidences of overcrowding, hopeless and poverty becoming issues of concern.

By the end of the 1980s, high-rise housing with private apartments became a primary form of city housing in the Soviet Union. For individuals who had the opportunity to joining cooperatives, housing was relatively affordable, but variable from one location to another based on the social status of an individual or community (Bater 241). The housing schemes were an embodiment of the government’s intention towards ensuring available housing, despite concerns over the sustainability of the initiatives.

In subsequent years, Russia has been focused on ensuring that it reclaims its position in the global political economy. In addition, such has been driven by ensuring that the state is able to reclaim its dominance as a global superpower in the world and more so in Europe. In addition, it is imperative that the lack of planning brought about unwarranted mass exoduses of populations from the rural areas into urban cities.


Works Cited

Bater, James H.. Adjusting to Change: Privilege and Place in Post-Soviet Central Moscow. The Canadian Geographer. 45(2) (2001): 237-51. Print.

Brumfield, William C. and Blair A. Ruble. Russian Housing in the Modern Age: Design and Social History. Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Print.

Czaplicka, John, Blair A. Ruble, and Lauren Crabtree. Composing Urban History and the Constitution of Civic Identities. Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2003. Print.














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