|Communal Living in Russia: Documents|
|A notice in the bathroom, asking people not to hang underwear on the clothesline.|
|Basic Facts and Background|
When: October 2006
Where: A midsized communal apartment in the center of St. Petersburg.
What: This is the kind of notice/letter that some tenants use to communicate. The writer makes use of the concepts "education" and "culture," as distinguishing marks that separate an apartment in the center of St. Petersburg from a dormitory for transient workers or a collective farm.
The notice was written by an older woman, who has lived in the apartment longer than anyone else. She can't be called an old-timer, as she moved in after the fall of the Soviet Union. But she is a full-time resident and the owner of a privatized room, while the people to whom her note is addressed are students who are renting. They are temporary tenants, while long-term residents, in accordance with communal traditions, consider themselves in charge and can give instruction and advice—all the more so when they own their room.
It is unusual for someone to object to underwear hanging on a clothesline in the bathroom. Communal residents are more likely to be embarrassed about underwear hanging in their rooms: "But guests come in here!" Even though guests go into the kitchen and bathroom, these rooms are not associated with any single person, so laundry hanging in those places doesn't make anyone feel uncomfortable. People also hang laundry in their rooms (see videoclip "At Auntie Asya's," Tour 3), as long as they aren't expecting anyone to come in or don't mind if it is on display for a visitor.
As for other residents, to some degree all residents of a communal apartment can enter each other's private sphere. In this respect they are almost like relatives. In any event, many things that would provoke embarrassment, if outsiders were to observe them are seen as normal here. Included in this category are certain details regarding intimate life.
In this case, the writer of the notice does not see the tenants to whom it is addressed as having the right to display anything related to intimate life in a public space. In general, such a request goes against communal traditions.
|Translation of the Russian Transcript|
Ladies and gentlemen!
Please do not hang intimate items (underwear and so forth) on the line. You can dry them in your rooms on pipes or on the radiator. This is not a factory dormitory or a collective farm; it's an apartment in the center of St. Petersburg.