Summary

This fascinating and deeply researched book examines how, beginning under Khrushchev in 1953, a generation of Soviet citizens moved from the overcrowded communal dwellings of the Stalin era to modern single-family apartments, later dubbed khrushchevka. Arguing that moving to a separate apartment allowed ordinary urban dwellers to experience Khrushchev’s thaw, Steven E. Harris fundamentally shifts interpretation of the thaw, conventionally understood as an elite phenomenon.

Harris focuses on the many participants eager to benefit from and influence the new way of life embodied by the khrushchevka, its furniture, and its associated consumer goods. He examines activities of national and local politicians, planners, enterprise managers, workers, furniture designers and architects, elite organizations (centrally involved in creating cooperative housing), and ordinary urban dwellers. Communism on Tomorrow Street also demonstrates the relationship of Soviet mass housing and urban planning to international efforts at resolving the “housing question” that had been studied since the nineteenth century and led to housing developments in Western Europe, the United States, and Latin America as well as the USSR.

Steven E. Harris is an associate professor of history at the University of Mary Washington. He was a research scholar at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute in 2003–2004.

Chapters

Introduction: Moving to the Separate Apartment 

Part I. Making the Separate Apartment
1. The Soviet Path to Minimum Living Space and the Single-Family Apartment
2. Khrushchevka: The Soviet Answer to the Housing Question

Part II. Distributing Housing, Reordering Society
3. The Waiting List
4. Class and Mass Housing

Part III. Living and Consuming the Communist Way of Life
5. The Mass Housing Community
6. New Furniture
7. The Politics of Complaint

Conclusion: Soviet Citizens’ Answer to the Housing Question
 

Reviews

“The housing programme has figured prominently in recent historical research on the post-Stalin period. Steven Harris’ wide-ranging history of post-Stalin housing is a major contribution to that literature.… Communism on Tomorrow Street is based on a considerable body of sources, and its empirical depth is itself an impressive scholarly achievement.… [it] succeeds in adding new material, novel perspectives and distinctive interpretations to the study of the housing programme.”— Mark B. Smith, Slavonica

“Harris is the first historian to explore fully the role of Khrushchev era mass housing as a catalytic component of what party ideologues and Soviet citizens called the ‘communist way of life.’… A pathbreaking study of the ways Soviet citizens claimed positions of agency in late-socialist society, Communism on Tomorrow Street meticulously assembles responses collected from visitor books at exhibitions, public meetings, and housing department petitions to create a fine-grained account of what was known as the ‘the housing question,’ and how it was politicized—often in ways that differed sharply from the methods and message preferred by Khrushchev’s regime.”—Greg Castillo, University of California, Berkeley

“Harris does many things superbly in Communism on Tomorrow Street. His chief aim is to write a social history of Khrushchev’s mass housing campaign. He argues that movement to single-family apartments was the way most Soviet citizens experienced the thaw after Stalin. Harris thus challenges long-held assumptions about the centrality of the intelligentsia and high culture in the thaw. Moreover, he shows that the mass-housing campaign had many of the trappings of earlier, Stalinist campaigns, except in one crucial regard: it was non-violent. The result is a major contribution—written in elegant, accessible prose—to the emerging historiography of the post-Stalin period.”—Stephen Bittner, Sonoma State University