expand/collapse this text box Summary
A few minutes in a large communal kitchen, where unusual eggs are being scrambled.
expand/collapse this text box Translation of the Russian Transcript
— The relatives will see it, they'll say "Aha!"

— Is it old already?

— Of course.

— Material proof, wouldn't you say?

— You're not filming my husband are you?

— Yes.

— Interesting. Tolya, what are you doing?

— What?

— You're being filmed.

— Yes, and then they'll arrest me.

— How do you like that?

— Look, it's not cutting because of you.

— They won't want to.

— Why won't they want to?

— I'm being filmed.

— Remember how we were filmed that time?

— Yeah, I remember. I know why you're saying that. You want me to tell the story. So I'll tell you, and you write it down. They're not recording anything here.

— Such a big kommunalka, and nothing happens in it.

— Let's film your quails.

— Mom, no!

— Then you show them yourself. You can pretend it's not our room.

— They're very little, yes.

expand/collapse this text box Details in Photographs
This video clip was filmed in the kitchen, hallway, and one of the rooms. The photograph "Entryway and hallway," below, shows the shared apartment telephone. The additional wiring that is being installed starts at its jack. The ladder that is being used for this work is in the doorway shown in the photo, over the hole in the linoleum.

A corner of a communal kitchen
Kitchen tables with dishes and shelves; a shirt and socks are drying. See a close-up photo of the socks. Apartment from Tours 1 and 2. 1997.

Meatballs and laundry in the kitchen
In the kitchen, Oksana is making meatballs that she will fry (Russian kotlety). 1998.

Entryway and hallway
Entryway and hallway with communal phone, table, and chair. We see "Auntie" Asya speaking on the phone in this same hallway in the clip "The Empty Room" (Tour 2), filmed 9 years after this photograph was taken. 1997.

Sink, pipes, and pesticide chalk (close-up)
Everyone washes dishes in their own basin, which they place on a rubber mat so that the dishes do not touch the sink. This is the apartment from Tours 1 and 2. 2007.

expand/collapse this text box Basic Facts and Background
When: 2000

Where: A large apartment in a prestigious neighborhood of St. Petersburg, which we also see in Tours 1 and 2.

Who: The tenants of a communal apartment, among them Natasha, whom we see in the clip "Kitchen," and her mother-in-law Ekaterina Sergeevna, who appears in some clips from Tour 2 and in her own video interview, where she tells about how and where she used to live.

What: Natasha is chopping cabbage preparatory to salting (preserving) it. We see a jar of this characteristic homemade preserve in "Onions on a windowsill."

The man is threading a telephone wire from his room to connect an extension to the apartment phone in the entryway. He is doing this without permission (he should be paying for the extension). This is the main reason for the jokes about "material proof" and "then they'll arrest me." Another reason hinges on a pun, as the phrase "tebya snimayut" can mean both "you're being filmed" and "you're being fired" for a crime, which may result in your arrest.

Extension telephones that complement the main line in the entryway are a potential cause of conflict among residents. When an apartment has only one phone, it is immediately clear whether or not it is in use. When there are multiple extensions in different rooms, someone who wants to use the phone can't tell if it's free, so he picks up his extension and possibly hears somebody else's conversation. The person using the phone also hears that someone has gotten on the line, and if this happens more than once or if the listening lasts too long, he'll say "Hang up."

In the Soviet period, both schools and state-sponsored after school activities (various clubs located at Pioneer Houses and Culture Houses) promoted mechanical and technical skills. Widespread technical abilities made it possible for people to compensate for chronically missing goods and services. People could fix or put together something technical on their own. In part for that reason, old things were never thrown out immediately: something could always be done with them. Old things were stored in the empty room (the contents of that room six years earlier can be seen in this clip).

One of the rooms, used by the family of the man putting in the extension, serves as workshop for making and repairing things. The room also holds an improvised quail farm. As you can see, the wooden box that serves as a coop for the birds used to be a box for something electronic (possibly an old-fashioned radio). Keeping a mini quail farm in an apartment is not altogether ordinary and not altogether legal. Keeping pets is not forbidden, provided the neighbors agree, but keeping farm animals breaks all imaginable sanitary regulations. This is the reasoning behind the line "You can pretend it's not our room."

In the early post-perestroika years, when food was scarce, people resorted to some unusual ways of providing for themselves. Many people grew vegetables on their dachas. At the time this video was filmed that was all forgotten, but quail eggs were not sold everywhere as they are now (in 2007). The older generation of the family who owned the quails were particularly involved with their dacha. They started seedlings on windowsills and used the city apartment every way they could to foster their obsession with dacha agriculture.

While neighbors complained about odors, nobody took decisive action because holding a protracted apartment war was worse in the long term than the odors of the bird farm wafting over from the next room. The quail owners sometimes treated their neighbors to eggs. Shortly after the filming, the quails were moved by their owners to a new location: the communal kitchen. Here they succumbed to a draft from an open window: somebody either out of ignorance or (this can't be excluded) intention left the window open in order to get some fresh air into the kitchen, and the quails froze. The owners did not get new ones.

Talking to Lena, who is filming, the neighbor washing the dishes laments that "they're not recording anything here." She means that although the film will be shown on television, the neighbors' complaints about the disrepair and deplorable condition of their apartment would go unanswered even if they were heard over the air.