expand/collapse this text box Summary
Ilya brings his young children to the building where he used to live and shows them the elevator, doorbells, and janitor's quarters.
expand/collapse this text box Translation of the Russian Transcript
Ilya: When I was little, there was a different elevator. And behind it... Let's go see what's behind it. Probably pails and brooms. The janitor used to live there, the janitor's family. There was a Tatar janitor who lived there and swept everything. And I have to say that when my grandma was a little girl—that's grandma Liza, you never saw her—there were carpets everywhere. And here, look, right here on this staircase there was a carpet. And the elevator had a special elevator operator man. Now we get into the elevator and we press the button ourselves. But back then the people didn't just get into the elevator and they didn't press the button themselves. The elevator had a chair in it, and on that chair sat the elevator operator. He worked from ten until eight o'clock in the evening and then he went home. And that was it, and if you came home after eight, then you had to use the stairs because the elevator didn't work any more. Now let's go, let's walk, as if we came after eight and the elevator operator is gone for the day. We'll walk up the stairs, and you'll see—look!—how nice the walls used to be. Good find, go ahead, put it in your pocket. Let's go, give me your hand, you don't want to fall here. So, this is where the Tatar janitor lived, right here, and all the children were scared of him. He'd lock the door, lock the door for the night, and he wouldn't let anyone in.

Ilya: Look at this, I'm showing you: here in this apartment live a lot of families. Not like us, where there's just one family in the apartment and nobody else. Here there are a lot of families. And every family has their own bell. So you're coming to see some people, you ring the right bell, and they come out to meet you. Look, Manya, what number is that?

Manya: Two.

Ilya: That's Apartment 2, and we need 4. Four is one floor up.

Ilya: Well, here we are. This is Apartment 4, the one we want. There's a note: "The bell doesn't work—knock."

expand/collapse this text box Details in Photographs
Apartment building and environs
This is where people from Tours 1-3 walk on their way to the metro. 2007.

Front door, used every day by the people from Tours 1-3. See also a close-up view. 2007.

Window in the entrance hall
First floor entrance hall shown in the clip "Stairwell" of the building in Tours 1-3. 2007.

The door to where the janitor once lived
The door to where the janitor, a Tatar, once lived (see the clip "Stairwell" from Tour 1). Someone placed a discarded refrigerator behind the elevator. Its handle is sticking out on the left. 2007.

A broken banister
A dangerous broken banister leading up to the fifth floor of this building, which is famous for its architecture. 1997.

A repaired banister
On the stairs of the building from Tours 1-3, the banister has been repaired but not restored; for several years there has been a gap here. See photo "A broken banister." 2007.

Doorbells on an apartment door
There are several bells at the door to the apartment, but it is not clear who they belong to. 2002.

The stairwell ceiling
All of the apartments leading out onto this stairwell from Tours 1-3 are communal; see clip "Stairwell"; some of the original decor from 1917, when the building was built, has been preserved. 2007.

expand/collapse this text box Basic Facts and Background
When: Summer 2006

Where: The entryway and stairwell of a five-story apartment building in the prestigious historical center of St. Petersburg.

Who: 1) Ilya Utekhin, an anthropologist from European University in St. Petersburg, who lived in the building for over 30 years. Today he and his family live elsewhere, but one of the rooms in a fifth-floor apartment still belongs to him. Ilya's book, Studies in Communal Living, is the foundation for our virtual museum. 2) Manya and Vasya, Ilya's children. This is their first time in the building. 3) Slawomir, who is filming.

What: The building was constructed from 1913 to 1918, when this prestigious district was being rebuilt in art nouveau style by architects who competed with each other in their inventiveness. Soon after the Revolution of 1917 most of the apartments became communal, as additional families were moved into them.

In the lobby we see two windows that were blocked with bricks when a second building was built next door. A pipe, either a gas pipe or a water pipe, goes through one of the windows into this second building. On the wall between the bricked-up windows are the mailboxes of tenants who live in this entryway. One mailbox serves each multi-family apartment.

Maintenance of the staircase is the responsibility of local housing authorities.