Video Tours > Tour 8. Stories and Thoughts > Outer City Housing Complexes
expand/collapse this text box Summary
Communal residents explain why they didn't want to live in new housing projects on the outskirts of the city.
expand/collapse this text box Translation of the Russian Transcript
Lena: I tell Marina: there's no way I'm going to the housing complexes; I'll die there. The apartments are like little boxes, I won't be able to breathe, some kind of claustrophobia. I think that all those cramped little rooms they have, everything cramped, it all puts pressure on me. I'm used to high ceilings; all my life I've lived with high ceilings. So, of course, those housing complexes, I can't understand how people live in them. They're like kennels, people are crammed in there like dogs in kennels, you know, it's horrible. There's no place for furniture there, no place to hang anything, everything's on top of everything else. One step to the lavatory, one step to the kitchen. One step to the bathroom. Nobody can move anywhere. But you see what it's like here?

Ilya: Yes, here you've got space!

Lena: Yes.

Marina: As a rule, the way people look at it is, when you live in the housing complexes, every seventh step you fall into some kind of stupor. I mean, when a person walks through those housing complexes, well, that's from psychology, if we're going to explain it like that. But here it's different because here... The way our minds are set up, we have to take in information all the time. Here, why I like it here, is that all the buildings are different, the architectural styles are all mixed together. And the people. Maybe because I'm already such a big fan of the Petrograd Side, but when you go into one of the new districts where the housing complexes are, it feels like people's faces are masks, or I just can't read them. Or the clothing is different, or something. There's some kind of different mindset, I would say, some kind of different spirit. You could say that whatever, whatever's around us, probably affects us somehow. And then my ancestors also play a role in this, obviously. I mean, in the fact that I get satisfaction from living here.

Alla Ignatevna: I'm happy just to live here in the center of the city. Because I lived for a while in the new districts, you know, I don't know how to explain it, it wasn't living, it was some kind of punishment. That Khrushchev housing...

Ilya: How did it happen that you left the Khrushchev housing and moved here?

A.I.: ...Khrushchev housing... you understand, drunks, you understand what I mean, right? Ordinary workers, drunkards, that's the way...

Ilya: But you can see them in the city, too.

A.I.: It was depressing there. Of course, there are drunks in the city sometimes. It was depressing there, and something was missing, something like, you know, I was supposed to be in Petersburg and instead I found myself in some village somewhere, and a bad one too, you know? If it's a good village, well, it can be interesting there too, right? But if it's a bad village...

A.I.: There's a bad... the whole environment is bad. That is, well, a total lack of culture, just total, that is you... As they say, people go outside, sit on a bench and just yak away, not about anything, they just talk to talk.

A.I.: It's a different cultural level, and everything else, education, maybe.

A.I.: I need the city. After all I was born in Petersburg, I only feel I'm alive in Petersburg. If you're not in Petersburg, you can live somewhere else, I don't know, somewhere far off... but if you're going to live Petersburg but at the same time live somewhere in the outer districts, in some bedroom district, that's tantamount to not living. That is, well, like my husband used to say, he was a psychiatrist, he used to call it "vegetating."

expand/collapse this text box Details in Photographs
Bolshoy Prospekt, Tolstoy Square
What Marina and Lena from the clips "Over a Cup of Tea" and "Who Lived Here Before the Revolution?" (Tour 5) see every day as they leave the house. 2007.

A street in Dachnoe
Five-story concrete block buildings in the outer-city housing complexes from the 1960s. St. Petersburg (then Leningrad), Dachnoe. 1969.

Street and movie theatre in Dachnoe
One of the so-called "outer-city housing projects." St. Petersburg (then Leningrad). Dachnoe.1969.

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

Where: Apartments in the prestigious center of St. Petersburg.

Who: Lena, who has lived in neighborhoods in the center of St. Petersburg for a significant portion of her life. She has spent about a quarter of a century in the apartment she lives in now. Marina, Lena's daughter, has lived in this apartment since she was a schoolgirl. Alla Ignatevna, who moved into her kommunalka in the late 1990s.

What: When an apartment is broken up, former residents are usually offered either small apartments in the outskirts of the city (in Outer City Housing Complexes (Novostroiki)) or rooms in a different communal apartment. In the view of many Petersburg residents, life in the new housing districts is not "Petersburg" and not "cultured." Some explain their attachment to the center of the city as nothing less than genetic memory, inherited by the children of "native Leningraders."

In the Russian imagination, neighborhoods that are far from the city center are often considered provincial and hence undesirable. The snobbery of people who live in central neighborhoods is also based on class. While neighborhoods are not distinguishable along ethnic lines, their socio-economic composition can differ markedly.