Communism on Tomorrow Street
Mass Housing and Everyday Life after Stalin
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.
About the Author
Steven E. Harris is an associate professor of history at the University of Mary Washington. Harris was a research scholar at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute in 2003–2004.
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 know 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.
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.
Harris provides fascinating new information about how state and society tried to build the daily lives of citizens in the post-war period.
This book is meticulously researched... Harris effectively presents the increasingly demanding attitudes of citizens towards authorities as well as the forms of social control generated by the new housing policy.
Communism on Tomorrow Street is based on a considerable body of sources, and its empirical depth is itself an impressive scholarly achievement... Aside from breadth and depth, the book offers new analytical insights... Harris' book therefore succeeds in adding new material, novel perspectives and distinctive interpretations to the study of the housing programme.
Relying on a wealth of previously untapped archival evidence, Steven Harris has written an important social history of this reform, which was crucial to the transformation of Soviet society known as the Thaw... This reviewer recommends the book to all academic audiences--students and scholars of modern Russian history.
The book draws from an impressive variety of sources... it is also remarkable in the way that it spans social and architectural history. Harris demonstrates the relevance of architecture for social history and also provides explicit hands-on examples of the socially constructed nature of the built environment.
Other Titles in HISTORY / Russia & the Former Soviet Union
Other Titles in European history