Communal Living in Russia: Audio
Our Neighbors and Us: Helping out vs. privacy: somebody else's visitor
  Summary
  How being helpful can unexpectedly encroach on privacy.
  Basic Facts and Background
  When: December 6, 1997

Where: An apartment on Shpalernaya St., in a prestigious St. Petersburg neighborhood; a midsized communal apartment with ten co-tenants

Who: Volodya, age 40; his mother Rosalya Yurievna; and Ilya, an anthropologist conducting field work in communal apartments as part of his academic research. A cat jumps onto the table (Rozaliya Yurievna's exclamations are aimed at her).

Volodya and Rozalya Yurievna moved to Petersburg from a small town in the Volga region, where they had their own house.

What: The story about how Volodya wanted to avoid someone who came to the apartment to see him and rang his bell. Volodya's co-tenant heard the bell and knew that Volodya was home, so he opened the door and brought the visitor to Volodya's room. In consequence, Volodya had some sharp words for the co-tenant.

  Translation of the Russian Transcript
  Ilya: More than twenty people were living there.

R. Yu.: You know, sometimes it's actually better when there are so many people.

Volodya: That's true.

R.Yu.: Because individual peculiarities are somehow smoothed over.

Volodya: You have a collective. It won't allow, say, for somebody to get out of cleaning duty. That kind of thing.

Ilya: Does it ever happen that somebody is at the door and rings the wrong bell?

R. Yu., Volodya: (simultaneously) Sure, and so...?

Ilya: And... you open the door, no problem, or somebody opens the door for guests of yours? Nobody gets angry because of that?

Volodya: Let me try and remember if that ever happens.

(Eight second pause)

Ilya: Excellent tea.

R. Yu. (to the cat): Go sit, sit, sit.

Volodya: So, so, something like that happened... probably, it happened... oh, right! I was the one who got angry. That somebody opened the door for [someone who came to see] me.. Who was it... who came... it wasn't just that I didn't go to the door, they brought this guest to my room. I really yelled at... the person who opened the door.

Ilya: But he wanted to do something nice for you.

Volodya: What does that matter, what he wanted? If I'm not opening the door, that means I don't... I don't want to. He did something absolutely wrong.

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