During the Soviet period, the “kommunalke” were collective households where families used to live together sharing kitchen, bathroom and telephone. The kommunalke have not disappeared even after the consumerism era. To this day hundreds of thousand of poor families still live in the noble palaces of Saint Petersburg (Unesco World Heritage Site since 1990).
The kommunalke represent today the other side of the city, the dirty and embarrassing face: here fireplaces are still made of marble but carpets are filthy and stuccoes on the ceilings are falling to pieces. All sorts of people live in these buildings: illegal migrants, broke students, ninety-year old men and women who have never left their places, as well as artists, architects, musicians and designers.
This modern version of kommunalka has (also) become a gathering point for young people and their activities. But there is a danger looming over those palaces: the avidity of some Russian oligarchs.