The furor that yet another of Mayor Sobyanin's search-and-destroy missions -- the planned demolition of the Krushchovki apartment buildings in and about the Capitol -- actually affects me personally. I live in one. I like my Krushchovka. My wife hated it while she was with me in Russia (now retired permanently to Bulgaria). She just couldn't see the charm that I saw. I mean, having spent most of her life in a one-room apartment in a village somewhere outside of Omsk, she viewed our dwelling as a step down from the splendor she had known before. As for me, I had lived in nice American houses and trendy bullshit "upscale" "cottage"-imitation apartment blocks in Florida where the kitchen and bathroom appliances were brand spanking new and shiny as a fresh bar of soap (even if you could put your fist through one of the cheap sheet-rock walls -- and I did once or twice).
In my Krushchovka, I guess I have been happiest on the balcony -- American buildings don't usually have balconies, and I always wanted to live in a place with a balcony -- also it was a place of refuge from spousal rantings about my beer consumption. I also love the chandelier of my Soviet domicile (the same reason I love the old metro stations -- I have a fetish for chandeliers)... I like the gleaming old-world bookcases full of Russian books I would never dream of trying to read but am glad are there (sort of like old friends you never actually see anymore.). I have no idea under the sun where all those books came from.
On the other hand, the walk to the top (I live on the 5th floor) is a drag sometimes, and I long ago noticed that the handles kept falling off things when you tried to turn them -- the cabinet doors, the wardrobe, the oven. One of the windows was -- once upon a time -- sealed shut with heavy tape (the handle having fallen off), but the heavier winter winds blew it loose, and so in February the cold can sneak in, and I sometimes wonder why...until I see the window standing wide open from some nocturnal blast. Oh yes, and the toilet (since replaced) was not fully fastened to the floor. Every time I hunkered down to do nature's work and then (try to visualize) lifted one buttock cheek to apply the "paper of civilization", I felt as if the whole apparatus might come undone, sending me and everything else sprawling onto the floor.. And the pipes have periodically leaked, giving the people below plenty to worry about as they saw ominous watery rivulets appearing on their ceiling -- telltale signs of floods to come.
Obviously, many Russians do not want to part with their old prefabricated concrete paneled homes, most likely because they think (accurately I might guess) that one way or the other they will end up getting screwed. Most ex-pats that I can think of would refuse to live in one of these places. They would call to mind similarities between their Krushshchovka and the so-called "Projects" that low-income Black Americans were crammed into back in the 1980s and 90s.They would think "DaFuq, I ain't no N-----! Why I gotta live in a dump like this!"
I am different. I have seen the so-called "best" and I was not impressed. I have been in the some of the most expensive apartments in Moscow; my job as English teacher is my invitation card to get inside.. Most of those places are just too damned big and they are COMPLETELY lacking in character or the decorator's touch. They are monstrosities of stainless steel or gilded gold..All Russians seem to care about are "square f------- meters", I have just about decided that super rich Russians have ZERO TASTE. In my Krushchovka, late at night, armed with a bottle of beer and some late hour deadline to meet, I understand that I am right where I belong, absolutely in my element. I love my dismal apartment in the old building where the stairs and landings do not invite happiness.. I will be sad when they bust it up and knock it down.
But, guys, they were never meant to last forever !!. Let's not confuse a Krushchovka with the Taj Mahal or the many, many endangered historical buildings in Moscow that really do need preserving.. The protesters have got it right in their own way, of course: a lot of the money will surely go into the hands of construction companies favorable to the government. I am just a dumb American but I already know this part of the game, However, Mayor Sobyanin is redoing the city, like it or not. He is on a Major Mission. So get your camera out and take photos while you can. Soon the Krushchovkas, like the little kiosks and the marshrutkas, will fade into the past.. Life goes on.
But indeed HOW will it go on for the millions of people who will be uprooted? You can bet your ass on two things: (1) there will be absolute chaos; and (2) the government will not give a tuppence-ha'penny damn how inconvenienced you are, Mr. and Mrs. Citizen of Moscow. And I hope you are not afraid of heights because you will probably find yourself living on the 25th floor in a building marvelously situated near your work-place in Kurskaya. Like Mitischi. But quit crying. At least you haven't been sent to a gulag..
P.S. I understand that the trams are next for extinction..
===Eric Richard Le Roy===