– DACHA –
impossibility of freedom in captivity was really manifest in the spaces people created.4
By 1960, Soviet urban planners declared that the USSR led the world in the number of apartments built per 1,000 persons. In 1959, Great Britain built 5.4 apartments per 1,000 citizens, France 7.2 and the USA 7.9. All the while the Soviet Union counted 14.5 units per 1,000 citizens. The Soviet construction program for 1966–70 aimed to move 65 million people into new housing but it was not expected to solve the housing crisis. Much of the new construction was flawed to the extent that immediate repairs were needed: the roofs leaked, the top floors sometimes didn’t have running water, the doors and floors were warped and the walls cracked.5 Nothing quite worked in the Soviet Union and everything was in need of endless repairs. One of my American friends expressed it best, saying that so much in the former Soviet Union looked as if it were
4 This kind of inventiveness was not limited to summerhouses. The Russian artist Vladimir Arkhipov created a project called Folk Forms – a collection of household practical objects created, repaired or improved by ordinary people. The online interface has many images: the artist is looking to identify the authors of the objects. He also welcomes submission of pictures of such objects. The site includes several pictures of gates and other architectural elements as well. The photographs of the objects were included in several exhibitions, including the Ostalgia at the New Museum in New York in 2011. 5 DiMaio gives examples of Soviet cartoons on the topic and cites citizens’ complaints published in the Soviet press. But the recognition of the problem did nothing to resolve it.