Homemaking and the Aesthetic and Moral Perimeters of the Soviet Home during the Khrushchev Era

By Varga-Harris, Christine | Journal of Social History, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Homemaking and the Aesthetic and Moral Perimeters of the Soviet Home during the Khrushchev Era


Varga-Harris, Christine, Journal of Social History


In February 1956, at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev denounced the Stalin "cult of personality" in his famous "Secret Speech," thereby providing official sanction for the de-Stalinization of Soviet society. (1) This process included the rehabilitation of individuals who had been unjustly accused of being "enemies of the people," greater liberty in the sphere of literary production, economic restructuring, and the revitalization of Soviet agriculture. (2) Because of these liberalizing reforms, the Khrushchev era assumed the moniker "the Thaw." In general terms, this reform spirit fostered a belated postwar "return to normalcy," something that had been delayed in the Soviet Union until the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, due to the continuation of the repression that distinguished his leadership. (3) In addition, it signaled a return to the task of building Communism, which had been interrupted by war.

Under the extraordinary circumstances of the Thaw, the establishment of normal daily living demanded nothing less than the complete "restructuring of everyday life" (perestroika byta). (4) The era of the 20th Congress was therefore distinguished not only by the dismantling of Stalinist terror and authoritarianism, but also by a general emphasis on ameliorating daily life for Soviet citizens. (5) This was evident in official commitment to advance nutritional standards (namely by increasing the output of meat and dairy products), to improve education and healthcare, to reduce the workday to seven hours and concurrently expand the leisure time of the average worker, and to raise the production of consumer goods. (6) The latter of these, particularly in the form of household wares, was integral to a major policy initiative that showcased the grand transformations of the era: a massive campaign to resolve the Soviet housing crisis and provide to each family a "separate apartment" (otdel'naia kvartira). (7)

Khrushchev launched his construction endeavor in July 1957, immediately after cementing his leadership. Characterized as "perhaps the most ambitious governmental housing program in human history," between 1956 and 1970, it yielded approximately 34 million units of living space, and more than 126 million people--more than half the country--moved into them. (8) This displaced the policy norm that, since the 1917 Revolution, in response to a persistent housing shortage, had minimally attempted to supply every family one room within a large flat. (9) In this type of apartment--the so-called kommunalka--the bathroom, lavatory and kitchen, as well as any storage spaces, were collectively shared with other tenants. (10) In qualitative terms then, the housing construction campaign that Khrushchev instituted entailed a broad transition from communal to "one-family" living.

Separate apartments had been built during the Stalin era, but they were largely reserved for members of the state and Party elite, or for hero workers. (11) What is significant during the Thaw is the extension of the promise of domestic comfort to the entire working class, a gesture representative of the egalitarianism that the Khrushchev regime sought to promote. (12) Official intent to provide each family its own flat--complete with amenities and domestic wares from appliances to folksy knick-knacks--also served as a concrete manifestation of Communism being built: from the perspective of the Soviet government and Communist Party, the home comprised an articulation of the vast difference between "us" and "them"--respectively, between the Soviet Union where the proletariat "owned" not only the means of production but also of habitation, and capitalist countries in which these were predicated upon exploitative private ownership. (13) Khrushchev highlighted this dichotomy on the international stage during the infamous "Kitchen Debate" that occurred at the 1959 American National Exposition in Moscow with then vice-president Richard Nixon. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Homemaking and the Aesthetic and Moral Perimeters of the Soviet Home during the Khrushchev Era
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.