The Housing Question*. Interior Scenes in Soviet Graphic Art from the 1920s to the 1980s

Irina Leytes, Yekaterina Arkhipova

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#2 2017 (55)

A show of 20th century graphic art in the Krymsky Val building offered a range of perspectives from Russian and Soviet artists on the subject of the home and the domestic world, commenting too on the associated social connotations that themselves changed through the period concerned.

 

Under Cover of Twilight

"The revolution is tangled in philistine threads
More terrible than Vrangel is philistine byt. Better
To twist off canaries’ heads -
So Communism
Won’t be struck down by canaries.”

Vladimir Mayakovsky

Depictions of everyday life - showing people engaged with their usual activities, in their accustomed home surroundings - have long been common in world art. In 20th century Russia, however, attitudes towards domestic life - byt, in the general Russian word - and indeed towards the concept of the home itself, underwent dramatic shifts. In the past, the home had been seen as a safe, contained space, offering its inhabitants comfort, warmth and a sense of safety. However, following the cataclysmic upheavals of the early 20th century, the radical ideology that took over in Soviet Russia sought to portray the comforts of home as pernicious for those who belonged to the new social order: this “counter-force” governed everything from home furnishings to Mayakovsky’s otherwise blameless canaries.

Instead, citizens were encouraged to build a totally new way of life, which, its austere proponents suggested, would have very little in common with past experience. Publically criticizing and denouncing the old byt was at that time all but obligatory. Now portrayed as a useless vestige of the past, it came to be linked with the notorious remaining members of the bourgeoisie, the burzhui. Nonetheless, byt did not entirely disappear in Soviet Russia: as far as was possible, people still strove to maintain the comforts of home around them, albeit in tragically different forms. This precious sense of domestic security can be felt in certain works of art of the period, primarily in drawings, perhaps due to their more contained and intimate nature.

Few interior scenes from the years of the Russian Civil War survive. During such catastrophic times the very concept of “home” is generally reduced to a minimum, with people mainly interested in survival itself. Living on the edge, they often have nothing, no right even to a home.[1] Compressed to a painful extent, such a “tight” existence is well depicted in Vladimir Lebedev’s works: suffocatingly airless, they show furniture advancing menacingly upon fragile human figures, turning them into little more than cardboard cutouts, grinding them into the background. Lebedev put innovative methods developed by avant-garde artists of the early 20th century such as shifting composition, deformation and generalization to good use.

Occasionally, however, even avant-garde artists of that period would choose to produce old-fashioned interior scenes: this perhaps helped them to feel more protected from the very real threats of that murderous era, with its shortage of comforting, homely byt. Despite her involvement with several futurist groups, the artist Kseniya Boguslavskaya, for example, chooses to people her cosy interiors (created in the turbulent year of 1918) with young women, peacefully engaged with their sewing.

In the early 1920s, the Bolshevik authorities were forced to partially revoke - albeit to a very limited degree - their ban on private property, which once again allowed ownership of housing. The changes were small, but the vast numbers of people arriving in Russia’s big cities meant that there was still a huge shortage of accommodation.[2] Mikhail Bulgakov’s bitterly ironic lines from his story “A Treatise on Housing” are apt: “Let us agree once and for all: the home is the mainstay of human existence. Let us accept this as an undisputed fact: without a home, a person cannot exist. Now, in addition to the above, I can inform all those who live in Berlin, Paris, London and elsewhere, that in Moscow, there are no flats. So how do people live there? Well, they live just like that. Without flats.”[3]

Even if during the times of the New Economic Policy (NEP), Russia saw a slight shift back towards private ownership, the practices of “compression” - perhaps the best translation of the Russian term, uplotnenie - and eviction nevertheless remained in force. Indeed, the authorities condoned the dreadful situation that had arisen with housing. As Sheila Fitzpatrick wrote in her study “Everyday Stalinism. Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s”: “A family apartment could suddenly, by municipal fiat, become a multi-family or communal apartment whose new inhabitants, usually lower-class, were unknown and frequently uncongenial to the original residents.”[4]

Despite such hardships, however, people still strove to maintain their sense of home. Human beings, it seems, have an organic need for a hearth to shield them from the harshness of the outside world. In the 1920s, low-key interior genre scenes were once more taken up by many artists. Leaving the more striking expressionist techniques of the time behind, artists opted instead for more traditional styles. Works from this period tend to convey a sense of space and depth, containing recognizable everyday objects, as well as characters going calmly about their ordinary business. As well as their individual styles, which were sometimes pronounced, one feature that clearly set certain artists apart from others during that period was their sense of their era, and how well they were able to tune in to its contemporary dynamics, threats and challenges.

In Lev Zhegin’s compact yet majestic interior scenes, patches of light of unknown origin coexist with darkness, striking a metaphysical note. Unlike the realistic figures busying themselves with their ordinary tasks that we usually encounter in interior scenes, the characters of Zhegin’s works resemble ethereal shadows, inhabiting some strange, almost sacral space.

The beautiful works of Georgy Vereisky, a prominent master of the interior scene, are often steeped in twilight, yet the light in them is more natural in essence. The impression is that, consciously or unconsciously, the artist was attempting to shield the personal life of his characters from the public gaze. The people in Vereisky’s interiors are usually members of the intelligentsia; having worked for many years as curator of the Hermitage’s collection of graphic art, the artist was well-acquainted with such circles. His favourite artist was Rembrandt, whose influence can be clear ly observed in his work; nonetheless, Vereisky’s shaded interiors are influenced not only by the Old Masters. The perfect harmony of line and form in the rooms he depicts is reminiscent of muted palatial grandeur, although the apartments themselves, situated as they were in the older buildings of the centre of the former Russian capital, had probably by that time already been “compressed”.[5] Thus, during the years of NEP, although the storms of revolution had somewhat abated, it was still advisable for such dwellings, and for their inhabitants, to remain “in the shadows”.

Many of Nikolai Kupreyanov’s interiors are shrouded in semi-darkness in a similar way, notable especially in those works which the artist created in his native village of Selishche over the course of many years. Before the revolution, the estate of Selishche near Kostroma had belonged to Kupreyanov’s parents; later, the house was bequeathed to his mother and aunt for the duration of their lifetimes in memory of their relative, the well-known “Narodnik” writer and publicist Nikolai Mikhailovsky.[6]

Generally, Kupreyanov supported the new order, yet when portraying his native region and its inhabitants, he would often veil them in twilight, occasionally even plunging them into deep shadow, as if to hide or protect them. This made these ordinary evening gatherings, groups of people assembled around a light, appear mysteriously appealing, warm and inviting. Due to their clothing and coiffures, the figures in several of Kupreyanov’s works are curiously reminiscent not only of pre-revolutionary Russia, but of more ancient times, too: whether by chance or deliberately, Kupreyanov makes them resemble the 18th century ci-devant nobility of France. Refusing to accept the French revolution, members of that group were persecuted and frequently killed, as of course also happened in post-revolutionary Russia. Kupreyanov, it seems, decided to protect his characters, veiling them with a shroud of darkness to hide them from unkind eyes.

Both Kupreyanov and other talented artists, however, also created interior scenes in which the people and objects appear to glow with an inner light of their own, brightening the surrounding darkness and shadows. Lev Bruni, Ivan Sokolov and Antonina Sofronova exemplify such tendencies, their work often depicting modest rooms with children and young people, as do Yury Vasnetsov’s similar graphic sheets showing pieces of furniture, created by and imitating children’s naive drawings. As time passed and people gradually became accustomed to the hardships of communal living - there were no other options, after all, except for those belonging to the new, relatively small social strand of the nomenklatura - the shadows in such graphic interior scenes began to dissolve, replaced by more uniform lighting. In some interiors of the anxious pre-war period, however, the darkness remains, as in the works of Nikolai Lapshin.

During World War II, interior scenes and everyday life in general were not common themes in art, for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, people still pined for the comfort of ordinary things: turning to the simplest objects, they were able, sometimes, to find a kind of warming light. The objects concerned would then acquire a certain symbolism: an interior scene by Georgy Echeistov, for instance, turns into a still-life with firewood and a stove, and is poignantly entitled “Wartime Still-life”. In this context, the wood scattered about the room and the portable stove become more than mere everyday objects, instead becoming sources of inner and outer warmth and light; bringing with them a sense of much-needed support, of the kind that is crucial to life itself, they offer hope. In Bruni’s large-scale watercolour “A Wartime Christmas Tree”, the child standing next to a fabulous tree ablaze with bright lights in the darkness, becomes something of a symbol of goodness and hope.

 

October in Soviet Byt

"The earth shall rise on new foundations.”

The Internationale

The late 1920s saw a revival of Soviet propaganda, calling for the building of a new world in the shortest time possible. Although brief, this period marked a fascinating stage in the history of the Soviet interior scene. Just as before, the idea of an “October revolution in byt” came to the fore, but this time on a greater scale: something radically new was to appear overnight, out of nowhere. Party ideologues even suggested that “one of the first priorities is the question of the systematic preparation of new people.”[7] Utopian as this notion was, the total dominance of Bolshevik propaganda, on the one hand, and the poor living conditions of the era, on the other, made it seem rather appealing. The enemies of the old byt were soon joined by architects, followed by other members of the creative professions. Everyone was attracted to the notion that “new people” could not appear from within the old byt, centred as it was around privacy, the individual and the concept of discretion. “The Soviet individual should live and be raised in a communal setting... The old byt is unacceptable and harmful, if only because it involved people living separately, in families or on their own, in separate houses and flats. Thus, the old byt separated people from one another, strengthening individualistic and possessive tendencies.”[8]

In the late 1920s, a multitude of projects were begun to create accommodation which would discourage any sort of private living, and such ideas were gradually put into practice in the so-called “house-communes” and various types of hostels.[9] Graphic art also had a part to play in this process: the graphic art of magazines, which were quite influential at the time, offered a mass readership various simple and striking examples of the new byt. Starting with a sterile rectangular space, artists would place in it only essential, ascetic items of furniture. On paper, at least, these new dwellings appeared to compare extremely favourably with the dark, cluttered living areas to which Soviet citizens were accustomed - they were new spaces of collectivism and strict equality.[10] Equality, indeed, was to be observed among citizens from their birth onwards: when designing a nursery, artists were to portray even nappies and cribs as strictly identical. Such spaces were well-suited to receive the positive characters, identical like mannequins, as depicted in contemporary propaganda. Placed in such spaces, any “negative” characters were expected to feel ill at ease, since this environment was not in keeping with their nature. An important visual feature of these new spaces was the all-but-total absence of curved lines, anything echoing the shape of the human body. What was present, however, was an ubiquitous metaphysical light. Its source was unclear, yet somehow it rendered the entire space translucent from top to bottom, like an aquarium, recalling somehow George Orwell’s line, “We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness.”[11]

Different artists approached the concept of the new living space in different ways. Vladimir Lyushin, a member of the Society of Easel Painters (OST) association, produced technical drawings, in which virtually all the lines were vertical or horizontal, and most objects echoed the rectangle of the paper itself.

Another artist who worked on the issue was Alexander Deineka, who produced copious magazine drawings, posters and easel paintings devoted to such new living spaces. Among his particular talents was an ability to see and clearly express conflict. Thus, in his works, the struggle between old and new is not merely portrayed through the clash of people from the “old world” with new and idealized proletarians. The frontal composition of his “propagandist” interiors, with their clear distinction between background and foreground, contrasts strongly with the free manner in which people and objects are located within these spaces. In Deineka’s works, a certain geometric quality goes hand in hand with more relaxed drawing that uses fluid, flowing lines and expressive patches of light. Mostly static, the “positive” proletarians compare somewhat unfavourably to the negative characters - the priests, bribe-takers, the NEPmen and NEP-women, whom Deineka portrays from a less contrived viewpoint and in less constrained positions. This was a contrast, however, that was unlikely to have been deliberate on the part of the artist.[12]

Independently of any ideology, Deineka’s painting of a shaded room with a young girl standing at the window gives an impression of warmth and mysterious depth (“Winter. Young Girl at a Window”, 1931). Here, once again, the composition is built on contrast: in addition to the familiar conflict between geometric rectangles and fluid lines, the image contains opposites of hot and cold, the living and the lifeless, light and darkness. Interestingly, the room can be said to be in keeping with the “new byt”, yet it is shaded, a cold glow of light coming from the snow-covered trees outside. Scenes of nature seen through a window are seldom portrayed with any detail in interiors of that time: more frequently, the window served merely to break the expanse of the wall. Occasionally, a work showing an interior scene in summer might contain a glimpse of nature in the window, yet even this would be conveyed in a generalized, purely decorative manner. In Deineka’s painting, however, the winter landscape possesses all the glory of a miraculous vision of the kind usually only seen in childhood: its glow lights up the darkened spaces of the room, revealing the figure of the girl and playing on the shapes of the dog and the radiator. We might perhaps even suppose that Deineka’s portrayal of this wonderful light, bursting as it does into the darkened room, was in part ideological. The end result, in any case, is a work of rare beauty that dwells not so much on conflict, but rather on the mysterious and awe-inspiring connections between all things.

 

Let There Always Be Sun!

"Those years, the universe we discovered.
The climate worsening. Those years
Of moving in and out.
That’s how they were, those years.
The bread with bits of chaff and maize,
And something else... oh, yes: with bits of peas.
And yet our men went into cosmic space.
Strange old times, indeed.”

Boris Slutsky

Extraordinary times, once more. Among the old habits dispersed by the powerful winds of change were the dark colours of earlier decades. The 1960s are perhaps the only Soviet decade to be associated primarily with light, bright tones, as well as the sounds of jazz. “The style of that era demanded lightness, mobility and openness. Even cafes began to look more like aquariums, with glass walls, so you could see inside,” Petr Vail and Alexander Genis have noted.[13] Everything heavy, dark and imposing now appeared hopelessly outmoded. Even the plain, identical five-storey houses resembling barracks, with their small apartments, brought people joy: after all, they promised freedom from collective living.[14] Moving into their own flats, people would now try to furnish them in accordance with their own ideas and taste.

On the whole, at that time, dark colours and heavy furniture were unpopular, as contemporary graphic art shows: contemporary interior scenes by leading artists offer a sense of space. In many ways, this new style is not dissimilar to the “new byt” projects of the late 1920s. The new space in the architecture of the 1960s could by rights be described as constructivist. Adapted for everyday mass use, however, it was also designed to provide a certain amount of privacy. Interior scenes by the Shestidesyatniki, the figures of the 1960s, such as the large-scale graphic sheets of Gury Zakharov, convey a certain reserve, a sternness of rhythm, austere architectonics and contrasts of black and white. Curiously, the large, generalized forms of such interiors do not produce an impression of heaviness or moroseness. In piercing their black mass with white streaks akin to force lines, Zakharov appears to strive to unite them with the outside world in a single energetic flow that alters and lightens visible contours and shapes. This version of the “Severe Style” does not, as yet, leave room for more private moods; rather, it conveys a particular poetic sense of the absolute, but not yet threatening changes of those times, and of the universal enthusiasm they drew. It was a sense, indeed, that was shared by many during the early years of space exploration and accompanying faith in the eventual triumph of science.

One artist whose interior scenes did convey a sense of joyful and even reckless privacy, as it was understood at the time, was Alexander Vedernikov. The Leningrad graphic artist and painter began working on interior scenes from the 1930s, and even his very first works in the genre are filled with a remarkable clarity, vivid colour and generalized form. The interiors produced by Vedernikov in the 1960s were most probably based on actual apartments, perhaps indeed on his own flat. In his works, however, the rooms appear far more comfortable and elegant than they would have been in reality.[15] With their simple, yet playful and bold composition, Vedernikov’s works are extremely appealing. Another endearing feature of his work is his inclusion of typical contemporary objects such as his notorious three-legged tables: in Vedernikov’s works, their impractical, yet somehow carefree lightness is grotesquely exaggerated. His humorous, colourful graphic art was doubtless in tune with the contemporary mood of playful irony, which manifested itself both in the arts, literature, theatre and cinema, and in everyday pursuits, and included the craze for KVN (Klub Veselykh i Nakhodchivykh, or the “Club for the Funny and Witty”, a popular television entertainment show) and the abundance of anekdot jokes.

In the interior scenes of the Leningrad artist Tatyana Shishmareva, the “winds of change” literally blow in through the windows. As in a number of works by Deineka, in Shishmareva’s interiors the window becomes a central element. In her own words, she always strove to portray “that, which lies beyond the window; that, which is outside, and yet, at the same time, here, in the room... Without the window, without the light coming in through it, this would be difficult to feel, and any interior, in this case, would be a mere formality. In my interiors there are no people, and yet, they are still present in their home...”[16] Shishmareva’s interiors combine sunny yellow hues with white patches and grey-black pencil lines, a colour scheme that lends her otherwise ordinary, albeit intellectual interiors a particular elegance.

In the opposite direction, a small group of village interiors, created mainly in the late 1960s and early 1970s, are radically different from the optimistic urban interior scenes of the 1960s. Such works were among the first in Soviet graphic art to portray the everyday lives of the rural working class, their appearance doubtless linked to the general interest which arose around that time in the hardships of village life; it was a curiosity mainly manifested in literature, in works by the derevenshchiki, or “village writers”, such as Valentin Rasputin, Fyodor Abramov, Vasily Belov and Vasily Shukshin, who examined the tragic experience of the powerless, deprived Soviet countryside.

In Soviet graphic art, such village interior scenes were mainly created by Viktor Popkov and Nikolai Andronov, artists of the new generation. Their works abound with curious details of village byt, such as portraits of Karl Marx in the icon or “red” corner - the small space for worship found in any rural home. In the main, however, the artists who chose to portray everyday village life did so without irony, unlike their counterparts who depicted urban living. The style used by both Popkov and Andronov in their drawings of village life is reminiscent of the icon-painting tradition. Their old women appear to be figures drawn from ancient icons, whilst details such as a photograph of Karl Marx in the red corner instead of an icon, or the “Ilyich lamp” electric bulb recalling an icon lamp, take us back to traditional ways of life, and remind us of the changes brought about by the new times. Reserved in composition and predominantly cold in tone, these drawings seem to stress the calm dignity of their characters, and the ways in which their village life is removed from the hustle and bustle of the city.

 

Autumn Marathon**

"Don’t leave the room, don’t make that mistake and run.
If you smoke Shipkas, why do you need Suns?
Things are all silly out there, especially the happy clucks.
Just go to the john, and come right back.”

Joseph Brodsky

Although the euphoria of the 1960s would pass quickly, over the final decades of the USSR’s existence Soviet people were able, to some extent at least, to move away from the control of the state with its clearly ageing institutions of suppression and surveillance. The right to privacy, if not to private ownership, was legally recognized as inalienable. As long as they played along with the “rules of the game”, which were still strict, people could live their private lives, albeit affected by growing shortages of almost everything.

This complex process of separation of private life from the state could not help but affect the mood of the intelligentsia, in particular the behaviour of many artists. In their attempts to distance themselves from the pompous officialdom of the late Soviet period, they openly chose what could be described as a process of “inner emigration”. This approach is evident in the work of many masters of graphic art who created interior scenes. Repairing to the seclusion of their studios, they would attempt to examine and comprehend the separateness, the distinct nature both of themselves, and of their living spaces. Rather than faithfully rendering nature, however, their works convey their own individual outlooks. The interior scenes of Vladimir Koltunov are particularly interesting in this regard: taut curves and vigorous staccato hatching alternate in a unique rhythm, giving both a sense of freedom and creativity, and an impression of severity. Among many members of the intelligentsia at that time, strictness was, indeed, the order of the day: “Do as you must, whatever the consequences!” Although not everyone was cut out for such harsh demands: where people are present in Koltunov’s works, they appear more lethargic and lifeless than the chairs, wardrobes and tables. The artist’s use of mirrors to widen the space serves only to intensify the sense of constriction and “brokenness” that his characters emanate. Often capable of producing an effect of liveliness and dynamism, here the mirrors make the people look like wax figures.

At first glance, the large black and white works of Nikolai Rodionov feature recognizable interiors with New Year trees and people. However, the artist uses a viewpoint slightly elevated above the scenes depicted, which is unusual in such images of interiors, as a result of which the scene appears at the same time both close and distant. Despite the specific details present in the work, the entire interior is unstable, fragile, somehow elusive: in the words of the poet Joseph Brodsky, it appears to “float in anguish unexplained”.[17]

In the late Soviet period, artists began to show more interest in images of interiors of cultural and historic significance, a genre that for many years had for understandable reasons not received much attention. Now, however, the theme re-emerged with a new poignancy, and furthermore, was part of the artists’ real, lived experience. In the works of Illarion Golitsyn, historical memory is treated in a highly personal, intimate manner. Related to the ancient noble families of the Sheremetevs, Demidovs and, of course, the Golitsyns, from the 1970s onwards the artist began to revisit his family roots and traditions through his work with increasing frequency. One example is Golitsyn’s large watercolour series of interior scenes from the legendary “Red House”: situated in Moscow’s suburban Novogireyevo district, the building is near the Kuskovo estate, which had once belonged to the Sheremetevs. At some point after its creation, it became known as the “Red Room” series; its dreamy interiors with their red wallpaper, antique furniture, family portraits and old paintings appear light and ephemeral. From Golitsyn’s childhood onwards, the artist recalled, these objects “were part, not only of the interior, but of my whole life.”[18] It is hardly surprising, then, that his works are of ten peopled with ghostly shadows of historical figures in his family.

Another artist to develop the genre of the historical Russian interior scene was Andrei Tsedrik. As a student, Tsedrik rented a room in the basement of an old Moscow house which the writer Mikhail Bulgakov had frequently visited. The building on Mansurovsky Lane is indeed thought to have been the “home” of Bulgakov’s Master, from his novel “Master and Margarita”; miraculously, the old house survives today. Created in warm and cosy sanguine tones, Tsedrik’s snug, intimate series “The House on Mansurovsky Lane” from the 1980s conveys perfectly the atmosphere of student living.

The mood is very different in the works of other groups of late Soviet artists, however. While some sought to make their interior scenes as expressive as possible, others opted instead for abstract, philosophical studies concerning the nature of objects and phenomena. If, in the 1920s and 1930s, unlike in literature, graphic art surprisingly had seldom addressed the contortions of communal living, towards the end of the Soviet period they begin to emerge in certain artists’ works.[19] The small interior scenes of Kirill Mamonov, for instance, show a tense, convulsive world full of suffering: when portraying an interior, the artist appears to recall the agony of people who may have been tortured or perished within its walls. He hears their cries: the suffering, it seems, continued into Mamonov’s day, too. In the expressionist works of Oleg Kudryashov, spaces appear insane and aggressive, in conflict with everything. In contrast, Yury Vashchenko’s interior scenes portray a meditative space, free from all sensual stimulation and confined within the refined vacuum of its geometrically perfect container.

Thus, with rare exceptions, late Soviet interior scenes fall into two categories. Some are tinged with sadness at the passing of an era, while others seem filled with nostalgic or individualistic expressionist reflection on the passage of time. If before this genre had appeared simple and accessible, in the later Soviet years it became associated with metaphor and, occasionally, with abstractionism. Its capacity for direct expression was not yet completely exhausted; rather, it froze in anticipation of the disturbing and inevitable changes that were to come.

 

* A reference to Woland in Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel Master and Margarita, “People are people. It’s just the housing question that spoils them.”
** The title of a popular 1979 film by Georgiy Daneliya about a married man going through his mid-life crisis, and life in Moscow in the 1970 s

  1. Soviet Russia's “housing redistribution” (zhilishchnyperedel) policy took effect following the adoption in August 1918 of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and Council of People's Commissars' decree “On the Abolition of the Right to Private Ownership of Urban Property”. The policy came to be known as uplotnenie - literally, “compression” or “tightening up”. In addition, various forms of requisition, eviction and so-called “voluntary compression” (samouplotnenie) were common. For more on this, see Natalya Lebina's “Everyday Soviet Life: Norms and Anomalies. From Military Communism to Stalinist Architecture”. Moscow, New Literary Observer, 2015 (Russian). Hereinafter - Lebina.
  2. The main reasons behind the disastrous housing situation at that time are explored in Sheila Fitzpatrick's “Everyday Stalinism. Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930 s”. Oxford University Press, 1999. Pp. 40-42. Russian translation: “Povsednevny stalinism. Sotsialnaya istoriya Sovetskoi Rossii v 30ye gody”. Moscow, Rospan, 2001. Pp. 52-54. Hereinafter - Fitzpatrick. For more on the main parameters of Soviet everyday life, or byt, see Andrei Sinyavsky, “Osnovy Sovetskoi Tsivilizatsii”. Moscow, Agraf, 2001. Pp. 220-272. English translation: Andrei Sinyavsky, “Soviet Civilization: A Cultural History”. Arcade Publishing, 1991. Hereinafter - Sinyavsky.
  3. “Literary Monuments. Mikhail Bulgakov. A Treatise on Housing. 1926”, Moscow-Augsburg, Im Werden-Verlagen, 2003. P. 4 (Russian). English translation: “Mikhail Bulgakov: Diaboliad, and Other Stories”. Editors: Proffer, Ellendea and Carl R.; translated by Carl R. Proffer. New York, Ardis, 2012 (“Tretyakov Gallery Magazine” translation used here).
  4. Fitzpatrick. P. 46.
  5. Interestingly, upon moving into such grand apartments, members of the proletariat often tended to experience discomfort due to the unfamiliar setting. See Lebina. P. 94.
  6. Nikolai Mikhailovsky (1842-1904) was a literary critic, sociologist, writer on public affairs, and a theoretician of the socially conscious Narodniki movement that engaged the middle class in the 1860s and 1870s with ideas of improving Russian society.
  7. Sinyavsky. P. 192.
  8. Sinyavsky. P. 234 (“Tretyakov Gallery Magazine” translation used here).
  9. “There were many different houses and projects: the ‘House-Commune’, (Zhilkombinat), ‘DNB’ (Dom Novogo Byta, House of the New Byt), Zhilishche Proletariya (Living Quarters for the Proletariat). Large canteens were known as 'factory kitchens’ and were expected to take the place of family lunches.” Sinyavsky. P. 235 (“Tretyakov Gallery Magazine” translation used here).
  10. Quite often, such communes did not even have proper kitchenware: the communards would eat out of the main shared pot. The women who founded a commune called “Lenin's Forge” (Leninsky Zakal) in Ivanovo-Voznesensk in 1923 “took turns to wear the same pair of court shoes. The only truly communist thing in this pitiful, destitute existence was the portrait of Leon Trotsky, an advocate of the struggle for a new byt.” Lebina. P. 75 (Russian).
  11. Orwell, George. “1984”. Signet Classics, New York, 1961. P. 25. Russian translation, “1984 i esse raznykh let”. Moscow, Progress, 1989. P. 28.
  12. According to contemporaries, many, especially the young, showed great enthusiasm for these attempts to promote the “new byt”. See Fitzpatrick, P. 69. (Russian, p. 86).
  13. Vail, Petr. Genis, Alexander. “The 60s. The World of the Soviet Man”. Moscow, New Literary Observer, 1998. P. 126 (Russian). Hereinafter - Vail, Genis.
  14. Kuratov, Oleg. “Chronicles of Russian Byt 1950-1990”. Moscow, DeLi Print, 2004 (Russian).
  15. According to contemporary accounts, around that time “flats began to be decorated very differently. It became fashionable to paint the walls of a room different colours... Experts gave the following advice: ‘With single-colour sheets, try choosing pillows of two or three colours, for instance, blue-grey sheets with fuschia, yellow and green pillows’. This kindergarten style was also present in the furniture, with low tables, folding sofas and wall beds”. Vail, Genis. P. 145.
  16. Brodsky, Valentin; Brodskaya, Natalya. “Tatiana Shishmareva”. Leningrad, Khudozhnik RSFSR, 1986. P. 62.
  17. Brodsky, Joseph. ‘Moscow Carol’/‘A Christmas Romance’, in “Letters to a Friend in Rome”. St. Petersburg, Azbuka Klassika, 2003. P. 44.
  18. Golitsyn, Illarion. “1928-2007. Being One's Own Self. In Honour of the 85th Anniversary of the Artist's Death”. Moscow, Russky Mir, 2013. P. 38.
  19. For more on everyday life in Soviet communal flats, during the Brezhnev era in particular, see Ilya Utekhin's “Notes on Everyday Communal Living”. Moscow, O.G.I., 2004.

Illustrations

Г.С. ВЕРЕЙСКИЙю. За шитьем. 1926. Фрагмент
GEORGY VEREISKY. At Sewing. 1926
Ink, paintbrush, colour pencils on paper. Detail. Tretyakov Gallery
LEV ZHEGIN. Family. 1924
LEV ZHEGIN. Family. 1924
Compressed charcoal, tortillon on paper. 18.6 × 26.7 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
NIKOLAI KUPREYANOV. At the Table. 1926
NIKOLAI KUPREYANOV. At the Table. 1926
Paintbrush, quill on paper. 31.5 × 47.5 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
NIKOLAI KUPREYANOV. Interior of a Room. “Good Night, Verochka!”. 1924
NIKOLAI KUPREYANOV. Interior of a Room. “Good Night, Verochka!”. 1924
Paintbrush, quill on paper. 22.1 × 25.7 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
LEV BRUNI. A Wartime Christmas Tree. 1942
LEV BRUNI. A Wartime Christmas Tree. 1942
Watercolour, gouache, whitewash on paper. 72.8 × 42.7 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
ALEXANDER DEINEKA. Not the Right Place! 1927
ALEXANDER DEINEKA. Not the Right Place! 1927
Watercolour, gouache, whitewash on watermarked paper. 36.8 × 25.6 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
VLADIMIR LYUSHIN. At the “Red Rose” Factory Residential Halls. Second half of the 1920s
VLADIMIR LYUSHIN. At the “Red Rose” Factory Residential Halls. Second half of the 1920s
Ink, pen on paper. 35 × 52.4 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
BORIS RYBCHENKOV. Children’s Nursery at a Ukrainian Collective Farm. 1930BORIS RYBCHENKOV. Children’s Nursery at a Ukrainian Collective Farm. 1930
BORIS RYBCHENKOV. Children’s Nursery at a Ukrainian Collective Farm. 1930
Watercolour, ink, quill, brush on paper. 43.5 × 61 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
TATYANA SHISHMAREVA. Interior. An Autumn Morning. 1963
TATYANA SHISHMAREVA. Interior. An Autumn Morning. 1963
Watercolour, lead pencil on paper. 43.8 × 30.1 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
GURY ZAKHAROV. A Log Hut in Tordoks. 1964
GURY ZAKHAROV. A Log Hut in Tordoks. 1964
Lino print, newspaper collage on paper. 62 × 89; 49.8 × 68.2 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
VIKTOR POPKOV. Interior with Red Curtains. 1966
VIKTOR POPKOV. Interior with Red Curtains. 1966
Wax crayon on paper. 28.9 × 40.1 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
VIKTOR POPKOV. By the Stove. 1967–1969
VIKTOR POPKOV. By the Stove. 1967-1969
Lead pencil on yellow paper. 40 × 29 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
TATYANA SHISHMAREVA. Evening. Light in the Window. 1979
TATYANA SHISHMAREVA. Evening. Light in the Window. 1979
Lead and colour pencils on paper. 36.5 × 29.1 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
ILLARION GOLITSYN. Evening Light. 1978
ILLARION GOLITSYN. Evening Light. 1978
Watercolour on paper. 44 × 34.5 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
ILLARION GOLITSYN. By the Window. 1985
ILLARION GOLITSYN. By the Window. 1985
Watercolour on watermarked paper. 39.1 × 49.8 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
NIKITA RODIONOV. Interior with a Christmas Tree. 1982
NIKITA RODIONOV. Interior with a Christmas Tree. 1982
Etching, aquatint on paper. 49.9 × 56; 32.6 × 41.7 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
VLADIMIR KOLTUNOV. Portrait with a Mirror. 1970s
VLADIMIR KOLTUNOV. Portrait with a Mirror. 1970s
Lithography on paper. 61.5 × 42.8; 48.2 × 38 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
YURY VASHCHENKO. Interior with a Pipe. 1984
YURY VASHCHENKO. Interior with a Pipe. 1984
Hand-coloured lithography on paper. 56.5 × 43.5; 42.7 × 29.6 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
GEORGY VEREISKY. Window at Dusk. 1928
GEORGY VEREISKY. Window at Dusk. 1928
Black pencil on watermarked paper. 63 × 46.8 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
LEV ZHEGIN. An Interior Scene. 1924
LEV ZHEGIN. An Interior Scene. 1924
Charcoal on watermarked paper. 17.5 × 25.8 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
VLADIMIR LEBEDEV. Interior with a Figure and Mirror. 1921
VLADIMIR LEBEDEV. Interior with a Figure and Mirror. 1921
Lead pencil and ink on paper. 23.7 × 28.4 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
VLADIMIR LEBEDEV. Woman Ironing “with a Toothache”. 1920
VLADIMIR LEBEDEV. Woman Ironing “with a Toothache”. 1920
Ink, brush and white on paper. 31.7 × 17.3 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
NIKOLAI KUPREYANOV. Natalya Iznar. 1925
NIKOLAI KUPREYANOV. Natalya Iznar. 1925
Lead pencil on paper. 36.7 × 45.3 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
ALEXANDER VEDERNIKOV. A Room at the Summer House. 1937
ALEXANDER VEDERNIKOV. A Room at the Summer House. 1937
Watercolour on paper. 52.4 × 37 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
NINA KASHINAPAMYATNYKH. At the Holiday Home. 1930s
NINA KASHINAPAMYATNYKH. At the Holiday Home. 1930s
Watercolour, whitewash on paper. 41.8 × 32 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
NINA KASHINAPAMYATNYKH. Children’s Nursery. 1934
NINA KASHINAPAMYATNYKH. Children’s Nursery. 1934
Watercolour, whitewash on paper. 44 × 52.8 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
ALEXANDER DEINEKA. Winter. Young Girl at a Window. 1931
ALEXANDER DEINEKA. Winter. Young Girl at a Window. 1931
Ink, gouache, whitewash, paintbrush on paper. 63 × 53.4 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
ALEXANDER VEDERNIKOV. Studio Interior. 1934
ALEXANDER VEDERNIKOV. Studio Interior. 1968
Colour print on paper. 46.8 × 62; 30.8 × 40.9 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
ANTONINA SOFRONOVA. Interior with a Child’s Chair. 1958
ANTONINA SOFRONOVA. Interior with a Child’s Chair. 1958
Black watercolour on paper. 27.2 × 20.5 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
GURY ZAKHAROV. Russian Stove. 1964
GURY ZAKHAROV. Russian Stove. 1964
Lino print on paper. 68.4 × 86.8; 50.9 × 70 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
VIKTOR POPKOV. Blue Interior. 1967–1968
VIKTOR POPKOV. Blue Interior. 1967-1968
Lead and colour pencils on paper. 28.8 × 40.5 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
ILLARION GOLITSYN. A Light Room. 1986
ILLARION GOLITSYN. A Light Room. 1986
Watercolour and lead pencil on watermarked paper. 49.5 × 64.6 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
VLADIMIR KOLTUNOV. A Sunny Evening. 1975
VLADIMIR KOLTUNOV. A Sunny Evening. 1975
Lithographic pencil on paper. 48.7 × 39.1 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
VLADIMIR ILYUSHCHENKO. Oriental Vases. From the “Summer at the Vasily Polenov House” series. 1972
VLADIMIR ILYUSHCHENKO. Oriental Vases. From the “Summer at the Vasily Polenov House” series. 1972
13 × 18 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
ANDREI TSEDRIK. In the Rooms. Early 1980s
ANDREI TSEDRIK. In the Rooms. Early 1980s
Lead pencil and pastel on paper. 51.7 × 40 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
OLEG KUDRYASHOV. Interior with a Portrait of the Artist’s Mother. 1970
OLEG KUDRYASHOV. Interior with a Portrait of the Artist’s Mother. 1970
Dry point on paper. 34.6 × 40.3; 23.5 × 30 cm. Tretyakov Gallery
Vasily CHEKRYGIN. Fragment of the fresco “Raising of the Dead”. 1921–1922
Vasily CHEKRYGIN. Fragment of the fresco “Raising of the Dead”. 1921–1922
Pressed charcoal on paper. 48.4 × 38.7 cm

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