Soviet Architecture of Kyiv: it’s not all the same

Luckily for Kyiv, it is not all about Soviet Architecture. However, Soviet times radically altered the city’s image. What type …

Luckily for Kyiv, it is not all about Soviet Architecture. However, Soviet times radically altered the city’s image. What type of Soviet Houses do we have here, and how are they different from one another? Let’s see.

Stalin Houses

Stalin house, or ‘stalinka,’ is a general name for buildings constructed in the 1930s-1950s. Unique features of those buildings are high ceilings, big rooms, rare elevators, and monumentality in their construction.

Pre World War II stalinkas are often addressed to postconstructivism style. While the technique of the later buildings is usually called Stalin empire, or neoclassicism. Kreshchatyk street is an example of monumental post-war architecture. The main street was almost completely destroyed in 1941 and rebuilt after the war. These buildings have many decorative elements which can get them confused with the pre-Soviet architecture. But just pay attention to the massive sizes and sullen colors, and you will know the difference.

If we speak about houses for the living, there are several types of stalinkas. The ones constructed for nomenclature and factory directors are way better than the homes for workers. However, most of them are of a better quality than khrushchevkas from the 60s.

The latest stalinkas were built after Stalin’s death, under Nikita Khrushchev. They still had quality standards of the Stalin houses, but no outside decorations. This was the time of the ‘’fight with architectural excesses’.  

You can easily find Stalin houses at Pechersk, Lukyanivka and in some places downtown. There are many in the area between Druzhby narodiv and Palats Ukraina metro stations. Many people still consider nomenclature stalinkas right places to live, because of their location and overall quality. However, one should be aware of the flaws. The water supply system is so centralized that most of the time you have to block the water all over the house, in case of a breakage. The roofs are starting to wear off, and the electricity system doesn’t always match the modern utilities.

Khrushchev Houses

Khrushchevka is probably the most common Soviet housing in Kyiv. Although to have a look at it, you need to go quite far from the city center.

Most of the khrushchevkas were constructed in the early 60s, during Khrushchev leadership. However, many of them kept being built in the 70s and even early 80s. The main idea of these houses was to make as many as possible. That would give a chance to relocate people from the villages to the cities, and to provide private flats to families that still lived in communal apartments.

These houses don’t have any ‘architectural excesses.’ The buildings are square and simple, the flats are tiny, compared to stalinkas. Most of the houses have four or five floors and no elevators. Nevertheless, in contrary to ‘stalinkas for workers,’ khushchevkas have all the necessary facilities.

The exploitation period for khushchevkas is extremely low. In most cases, it was 20-30 years, sometimes even 15 years. The idea was to build cheap and temporary housing for people, who will later move to better places when the communism is finally achieved. However, life played out differently. In the 1990s, khrushchevkas owners privatized their flats. At the moment it is a big issue. The city needs to figure out how to get rid of these old and dangerous houses. However, while destroying khrushchevkas, owners need to be paid off the compensation for their private property.

Brezhnev Houses

Brezhnevkas were obviously constructed under the leadership of Leonid Brezhnev (mid-60s – mid-80s), and sometimes later. Just like khrushchevkas, they are more functional than decorative. However, Brezhnev houses are a slightly improved version of their predecessors.

At average those houses have 10 floors, sometimes there are up to 18. All the homes higher than 5 stories have elevators. The flats are tangibly bigger than in khrushchevkas, and the exploitation period is much higher. Another improvement was the installation of the garbage chute.  

Brezhnevkas is less common name than stalinkas or khrushchevkas. In the 90s people called them ‘modern’ or ‘new’ houses. And now the term ‘late Soviet’ is being used often.

You can find brezhnevkas squeezed between, or standing aside historical and modern buildings in the city center. Some of them even have attempts of external decorations.

If this article inspired you to learn more about the Soviet history of the Ukrainian capital, welcome to our Kyiv Soviet Tour. Get to know about houses, monuments, personalities and much more!

Photo credit: Anna Charles

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