How Russia's Shared Kitchens Helped Shape Soviet Politics

After the Soviet revolution, large single-family homes of the formerly wealthy were subdivided into apartments, or even shared rooms, for many families -and they had to share the kitchen, too. No one chose their housemates, which led to conflict, setting up rules, and systems worked out to get everyone fed.

"Communal kitchen was a war zone," says Alexander Genis, Russian writer and radio journalist. "During the Stalin era [1928-1953] it was the most dangerous place to be — in the kitchen."

[Edward] Shenderovich agrees: "Communal kitchens were not places where you would bring your friends. I think that was one of the ideas for creating a communal kitchen. There would be a watchful eye of society over every communal apartment. People would report on each other. You would never know who would be reporting."

But Anya von Bremzen remembers there was camaraderie as well. "There was always a grandmother to take care of the kids, and share a bit of cutletta or salat Olivier. And when they began to disband the communal apartments, the communal kitchen was an institution that many people actually began to miss."

The communal kitchens were discouraged under Stalin because it was a place people could gather to talk politics. And as the regime grew more totalitarian, the unity of the proletariat that founded the Soviet Union was seen as dangerous to those in power. The story of the communal kitchen follows the history of the USSR, and you can get a good overview of that kitchen and its history at NPR.  -via Boing Boing

(Image credit: Courtesy of European University, St. Petersburg, Russia, Colgate University and Cornell University)

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