Behind The Iron Curtain: Living Room

Since I don’t expect that any of you frequent Russian language sites, I expropriated some pictures for your viewing pleasure. If you were invited to a typical soviet apartment in the late 70s – early 80s, chances are it would look something like this. My living room looked pretty similar and so did many other living rooms I visited. The only thing was that many of these only served as living rooms during the day. At night they were converted to bedrooms, where sometimes kids and parents slept and I am not limiting kids to any age here. Some people spent most of their lives sharing a room or two but in the morning you wouldn’t be able to tell. In my own case we had several rooms but we shared the apartment with 4 other families. And by “shared” I mean we had one toilet, one cold water faucet in the bathroom and one corner of the kitchen with a stove and later our own sink. But that’s a different story.
So consider yourself invited:

  • Melinda

    That’s how the apartments look in Sarajevo. Our landlord said he and his family would’ve moved in here, but they decided to live farther out for more room. If they had lived here, the boys’ bedroom would’ve been the living room.

  • JustCara

    So are the sofas all fold-out beds or do people do futons or what? (I’m fascinated by this.)

  • meesha.v

    Good furniture wasn’t widely available and imported furniture was the most prized. We had a sofa sleeper although it wasn’t that easy to fold and unfold it.We also had a roll-away bed like you see on the 3rd photo which was informally called “helicopter”. I have one of these here, bought it at Big Lots.

  • Midtown Miscreant

    I folded my kid brother up in one of those roll away beds. Good times. If you ever get homesick my place is pretty shitty, you can crash on the floor. Just kidding.
    So was there no quality russian made furniture, or was it just out of the average joes price range?

  • meesha.v

    Well,if you walked into on of those rooms you’d be surprised how “not shitty” it would be. People tried to do the best with what they had, sometimes crossing the line of comical. One time my friend got a bunch of “AAA” stickers (like one I threw away today) and proudly displayed it on his bike. We didn’t even know what it was.
    Soviet consumer goods were pretty crappy although reliable for the most part.TV’s,cars, fridges from 70’s still work.
    Also unless you were a member of underground economy,everyone else was an average Joe. By underground economy I mean things that were banned i.e. reselling goods, private business, bribes, theft etc.

  • Midtown Miscreant

    I meant to ask, 3 of those pictures all have big wall units in them, Im guessing they are all different apartments. Is that common , they actually look well built. Utilizing space is tricky in a confined area. And the shitty reference was directed toward my place actually.

  • meesha.v

    These wall units were pretty common. I think the best ones were made in Germany (GDR). On one picture you can see crystal on display, that was a big deal too – collecting and displaying crystal.
    I got the “shitty” reference,I just wanted to point out that people were pretty ingenious in trying to make their apartments look nice given the lack of everything. There is a Russian saying “you can’t make a bullet out of shit”,but people tried anyway.

  • Bea

    Thank you for sharing some of your country’s culture. These photos make me remember a documentary I saw about North Korea. Everything looks simple, but clean, showing how people try to make a decent living with what they have.

  • logtar

    Amazing, I would love to hear more about it… I have very minimal knowledge on the life of Russia and some of it came from hollywood so you can only imagine how wrong it is.

  • Heather

    It all looks like very Ikea-ish to me.

  • travelingal

    My aunt took a trip to Russia this past summer. She said most people lived in highrise apartment buildings and there were no elevators in them. Everything, furniture, whatever, had to be carted upstairs by hand. Moving would be fun (not).

  • meesha.v

    Buildings have elevators. Sometimes they don’t work.Maybe some places don’t have freight elevators so that’s why your aunt saw movers carting things upstairs.

  • Melinda

    Our living room sofa is a pull-out, but we haven’t pulled it out yet. It’s not very comfortable to sit on, so we moved it to the side and sit on the loveseat, which is more like a small oversized chair – difficult for two people to sit on comfortably.

    I can’t speak for Russia, but I think our apartment is made very well. Concrete will do that. They pipe in the heat through the floor, which is kinda nice. My toes don’t freeze so much. Our friends live in a big high-rise, and they have a very small, rickety elevator. I would almost rather walk up the 13 flights of stairs except I’m afraid of what I might find in the stairwell (their apt. was broken into once).

  • edward

    My first thought was how clean the place is. When I was growing up I was taught that you all lived in filthy shanties.