The Krushchev Slums

With the ever growing urban population in Russia during this time, housing was a big problem. Offered residencies varied depending on which part of Russia you were in, but overall a person’s housing space was small per person and not everyone had the luxury of not having to share space with others. An example of the types of living spaces for the urban population in 1965 was:

  • 31.6% lived in private individual homes
  • 55.6% lived in apartments
  • 6.4% sublet privately
  • 6.4% lived in hostels

But when it came to apartments, it wasn’t apartments like you’d consider us college students to live in. Many people living in apartments during this time were in places called “kommunal’nye kvartiry,” which meant that up to four families shared a kitchen and bathroom. To address the growing number of urban residents, Krushchev was more worried about building as many more residencies as possible versus worrying about the quality of the housing, which is why it is often called the slums.

"Maybe the apartment's not big, but it does have a telephone!"

“Maybe the apartment’s not big, but it does have a telephone!”

An interesting aspect of this housing program was that construction was focused on new areas in cities instead of rebuilding in the old part of the city where there are many buildings of little value. The chief architect for Moscow explained this reasoning by saying that the buildings in the old part of the city could still be used for a few more years, so rebuilding those areas would be a waste of resources and time considering that the new areas don’t have buildings that need to be taken down. Later on in the interview the chief architect also described the benefits of constructing housing in new areas of the city as an attempt to decentralize the congested city. By adding housing in other parts of the city, it spreads out the population to reduce its density in the old part of the city. To also tackle the large population density in Moscow, the government stopped any new industrial construction. This would hopefully aid in curbing the large influx of people into the city.

Courtyard of a new apartment

Courtyard of a new apartment

apartment construction

apartment construction


Siegelbaum, Lewis. “1961: The Khrushchev Slums.” Seventeen Moments of Soviet History, accessed November 1, 2014.

“Izvestia Interview: Moscow Redevelopment Plan Under Way.” The Current Digest of the Russian Press 10, no. 32 (1958): 7-8.

Image 1: “Kurits: Maybe the apartments not big…(1969).” I. P. Abramskii: Vragi i druz’ia v zerkale Krokodila, 1922-1972. Moscow: Pravda. 1972

Image 2: “Ogorodnikov: Courtyard of a New Apartment (1966).” I. P. Abramskii: Vragi i druz’ia v zerkale Krokodila, 1922-1972. Moscow: Pravda. 1972.

Image 3: “New Apartment Construction (1962).” Soviet Union, No. 148 (1962), p. 44.

5 thoughts on “The Krushchev Slums

  1. I remember learning last year that these slums were often called “kaka” because they had such poor conditions :). As you pointed out, much of the time they focused on new areas, but sometimes they also renovated older buildings. Check out this article describing some of the renovation plans for an old apartment building to become a more well-lit facility with a kindergarten classroom:

  2. It surprises me that they wouldn’t rebuild the old because I feel like it would be cheaper to renovate the old and add more people to it than to completely build up new complexes.

  3. Great post and wonderful sources! The small apartments that lacked quality remind me of the apartment that was the setting for that 1920’s silent film that we watched in class, “Bed and Sofa.” It is interesting to see that the quality of the living area is still not as important to the Soviet Union in the 1970’s, as the population seems to increasingly grow in the city.

  4. I really liked the cartoons you used in your post to show the poor quality of housing most Russians had to suffer to live in. It does make sense that by building new housing areas at the outskirts of the city would stop the congestion of the city. Too bad little thought was put into the quality of these new housing areas or basically slums that were made to house the masses.

Leave a Reply