February 2, 1998
Where: A communal apartment in the central entryway of a five-story apartment building in the prestigious historical center of St. Petersburg. The apartment, home to 18 people, is at the back of the central courtyard (the architectural term is cour d'honneur, a formal three-sided courtyard that is a feature of European palaces and mansions beginning in the seventeenth century).
Who: G.A. Z—, born 1932; the interviewer is Ilya, an anthropologist doing field work in communal apartments.
The informant is bedridden; she is looked after by neighbors and a city aide. During the interview, the aide was in the room, cleaning; she also brought in the meal she had prepared in the kitchen.
The oldest tenant in the apartment, living there since 1932, G. A. Z—, was in active conflict with all the other tenants ("I'm lying in a state of boycott," as she put it). Unlike her memories of the past, which she could relate more or less calmly, everything that in any way touched her relationship with her neighbors today agitated her and made her stutter; it was very difficult for the interviewer to change the subject.
What: A friendly life before the war; childhood memories of New Year's festivities.
The most important holiday in the Soviet Union was New Year's eve. Christmas, as a religious holiday, was not celebrated in the atheist state. Beginning in the 1930s, the government encouraged New Year's celebrations by organizing special children's parties. The main such party took place in the Kremlin.
It is customary to decorate trees, the equivalent of Christmas trees, and exchange presents at the New Year.
Our virtual museum has only one photograph from this apartment ("Partial view of a kitchen") and no video materials.