Let me echo Christine’s congratulations to Steve Harris for a remarkable book. Christine has provided a superb summary of some of the main arguments in the text. So, rather than cover the same ground, I would like to address some of the ideas raised in the early chapters and to suggest some new questions for us to consider.
Consistent with much recent scholarship, Harris dismisses artificial boundaries and chronologies that historians have foisted upon events. He searches for the roots of the khrushchevka both before Khrushchev and 1917. Similar to David Hoffmann and Peter Holquist, Harris argues, in the case of housing, that the Bolshevik Revolution was not truly revolutionary. Rather, Bolshevik housing policy shared much, although not everything, with Europe and tsarist Russia. Rapid industrialization, urban overcrowding, and the increasing fixation on public hygiene brought the “housing question” to the front pages in numerous European countries. World War I found many emerging welfare states, to varying degrees, constructing public housing for workers and returned soldiers. The Bolshevik Revolution created a “rupture in historical time” (p. 46) as Russia’s new regime began forcibly expropriating and redistributing private property. This break from the pan-European norm also led to the dreaded communal apartment in which a large (or not so large) house or apartment would be divided into several residences. However, architects and officials in Russia continued to discuss minimal living space norms much as did their European counterparts.