Have you ever wondered how people in the USSR REALLY lived? The daily reality of an average Soviet person was equally removed from the extremes of the ebullient propaganda posters and grim tales of totalitarian oppression. And you can take a trip back in time and into the homes of “ordinary Soviet people” thanks to the permanent special exhibit of the State Museum of Contemporary Russian History, “My Home – Russia” (Мой дом – Россия).
The exposition consists of some two dozen historical interiors (and sometimes exteriors), showcasing how the homes of people in Russia (particularly Moscow) have changed from the turn of the 20th century to brink of the 21st. It starts with the pre-Revolution peasant huts and goes through the communal apartments and factory workers’ dorms of the 1930’s through 1950’s, onto the construction boom and new, individual apartments that followed, shows how consumer appliances such as vacuum cleaners and washing machines made their way in (looking like sad robots from Star Wars), contrasts city interiors with village homes and country dachas, and takes you all the way through the Mad 80’s and 90’s and the crazy social changes that came with them. Throughout the exhibit there are plenty of artifacts to peruse, from the ubiquitous portraits of Vladimir Lenin to Soviet newspapers and money, to avant-garde art, which crept into people’s homes despite being considered anti-Soviet by Leonid Brezhnev.
The rooms aren’t just something curious to check out — they are true artifacts that reflect MONUMENTAL changes that the Russian society has undergone over a course of the 20th century. Communal apartments and massive factory dorms became necessary to accommodate the influx of people from villages to cities during the early Soviet industrialization push. After the Great Patriotic War, during the Khrushchev’s “thaw,” an effort was made to provide separate apartments to individual families, leading to the construction of 5-story Khrushchyovka buildings all over the country. The end of the communist rule led to the popularizations of bars and nightclubs — and ridiculous, flashy fashions, especially among the Novy Russky (nouveau riche, usually criminally-affiliated “New Russians”) set.
One peculiar aspect of living in the USSR was the standardization of….well, everything, due to the centrally-planned economy of the entire country. As a result, millions of people around the Soviet Union wore literally exactly the same clothes, ate from exactly the same plates and furnished their homes with exactly the same couches as their comrades. This fact was brilliantly satirized in a wildly popular (to this day) classic Soviet film “The Irony of Fate.” And still I did not expect to have so many OMG moments at the museum, seeing SO many items FROM MY OWN CHILDHOOD! all over the place. There was my grandmother’s linen closet, and the living room set from my mom’s friend’s apartment, the old “ZIL” refrigerator from our dacha, and even a “Three Bears” tapestry on the wall, just like we had! Perhaps some people would find this horrifying, but I was jumping with glee, as I just got to revisit my (no joke) wonderful Soviet childhood.
From peasant life to factory dormitories and communal (shared) apartments (and sometimes, rooms!) in the city:
A living room and a dacha (summer house), the late 70’s and 80’s (with the 1980 Moscow Olympics bear!!!):
“My Home – Russia” is located separately from the main complex of the State Central Museum of Contemporary Russian History, at Delegatskaya Street, 3. More info at: http://www.russianmuseums.info/M389 .