Staunton, November 17 – The Soviet-style communal apartment or “kommunalka” in which many families have to live together sharing kitchens and bathrooms in what was often a high tension environment is making a comeback in the Moscow rental market as a result of Russia’s current economic crisis.
Having one’s own apartment rather than having to share it with other people had long been a dream of Soviet urban residents, and over the last two decades, most Russians in most cities were able to make the transition from “kommunalka” life to that of separate apartments. But according to a new study, that trend is now being reversed, at least in Moscow.
And to the extent that continues, many Russians will be returning to something they thought they had been able to give up; and they are likely to find life in such places ever more difficult than they or their parents did when they moved into “kommunalkas” in the first place. Indeed, this new trend could spark additional social tensions in the Russian capital.
In “Kommersant” yesterday, journalist Mariya Glushenkova reports that earlier this month analysts at Income-Property released a study which showed that the number of rentals occupied by more than one family group had risen from 38 percent a year ago to 57 percent now largely so that people can afford to live in the city (kommersant.ru/doc/2846518).
When students do this, it is considered completely “normal,” Income-Property’s Oksana Polyakova said; and when gastarbeiters do so, it is even considered the norm. But now adults experiencing financial difficulties are choosing to live with other family groups as “an anti-crisis measure.”
Another expert, Sergey Zharkov, a specialist on property in the Russian capital, said that this is not a crisis because “a crisis is something which begins and ends.” Instead, he suggested, Russians are “in a new economic reality,” in which ever more people have ever less money to make ends meet.
What makes this situation especially surprising to the expert community is that rents are falling. Last month, the minimal rents fell “below 20,000 rubles (300 US dollars) a month.” But even that is too high for many, and consequently people are sharing apartments in order to share the rent.