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By the time Marina Maslova was built-in in the six-room accepted accommodation at 65 Bolshoi Prospect, an absolute bearing had lived there and appear of age back the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

Maslova still lives in the allowance area she was built-in 61 years ago, and she remembers the dozens of families that accept absolved bottomward its twisting, aphotic hallways and lived in its awash accommodation during her life.

It was actuality that the guests at her bells affair in the 1970s confused the appliance abreast to accomplish allowance to ball in the 345-square-foot allowance she aggregate with her new husband, her parents and her grandmother.

And it was here, in a baby allowance aloof off the kitchen, area a 16-year-old boy hanged himself with his belt in the aboriginal 1960s afterwards his parents, with whom he aggregate the cupboard-size space, disappeared. Both the parents were deafened and mute, and the teenager, addled about their connected bubbler and neglect, took his own activity out of despair, Maslova said.

“No one anytime lived in that allowance afterwards that,” she said.

One hundred years afterwards the Russian Revolution, accepted apartments like Maslova’s abide one of the constant symbols of how this affected burghal went from the Russian Empire’s admirable basic to the affection of a antipathetic anarchy that would bang Europe for the abutting 70 years.

With its palaces, streets of Italian-designed barrio and adventurous canals, St. Petersburg was Peter the Great’s advertise city, which he said would be Russia’s “window to the West.”

But back the Bolsheviks overthrew the arbiter and acclimatized what would become the Soviet Union, they faced a accommodation crisis. Rural association were absorption to St. Petersburg (renamed Leningrad), Moscow and added cities in chase of bread-and-butter prosperity. Meanwhile, the dignity and elite were affected to abscond or were killed. The antipathetic government took over their affected homes and apartments barrio and resettled displaced families with strangers in hundreds of bags of apartments in St. Petersburg’s actual burghal center.

The aggregate apartments became accepted as accepted apartments, or kommunalka in Russian.

In best cases, one ancestors acclimatized one allowance in an apartment, which could be as baby as three accommodation and as ample as 10. The family’s allowance served as a bedroom, dining allowance and active room.

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In abounding cases, several ancestors lived in one baby room, such as Maslova’s ancestors did until 1988, back the woman in the allowance abutting to chastening died, and the Soviet government allotted the abandoned allowance to the accretion Maslov clan.

“In that sense, the Soviet Union wasn’t that bad: They gave us apartments,” she said.

Today, the St. Petersburg burghal government estimates (link in Russian) that there are 250,000 bodies active in 78,500 accepted apartments in the burghal of 4.5 million. That cardinal is bottomward from about 117,000 accepted apartments in 2008, back the burghal aboriginal started a alteration affairs for families active in the best briefing of kommunalka.

Common amplitude is aggregate and generally fought over, including the use of the toilets. Each ancestors has its own toilet cardboard cycle and, in some apartments, its own toilet seats, which adhere on walls and are taken bottomward back needed.

Apartment 16 did not get hot baptize until 1986. Until then, there was no bath for abrasion up, aloof a kitchen sink, so association went to the banya, the accessible sauna, bottomward the artery to bathe.

Shared kitchens can accept as abounding as bristles stoves, and families circle affable and bistro times to abstain conflict. Refrigerators and aliment food are kept in the family’s rooms.

The hallways are perpetually aphotic as there are no accepted lights. Electrical affairs circuitous in bunches array from the hallway’s walls as they wind their way from allowance to room. Each ancestors has its own electricity meter, and a lamp over the aperture to their rooms. Some apartments alike accept active abstracted switches for the ablaze over the toilet so that one acquaintance isn’t accepting to pay for addition neighbor’s visits.

When Maslova’s architecture was congenital in 1899, St. Petersburg was abounding of agnate accommodation blocks in which affluent landlords busy the various-sized apartments to acting and sometimes abiding residents.

Maslova’s grandmother acclimatized this accommodation during the annoy of Leningrad in World War II, back Nazi Germany’s troops amidst the burghal for 900 days, depriving its abode of acute supplies. Her grandmother had been active in a board house, but back it was broken bottomward to be acclimated as firewood, she was acclimatized one of the beyond accommodation in the accommodation for her and her daughter.

At its peak, 17 bodies and six families lived in Accommodation 16, Maslova said. Today, there are alone about six or seven people, depending on who’s advancing and staying. Acceptance hire the accommodation so that they can alive and abstraction in the actual center.

When relations are acceptable amid the neighbors, as they are in Accommodation 16, the aggregate active bearings is tolerable. Back they are bad, activity is actual hard, Maslova said.

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In the 1950s, Soviet baton Nikita Khrushchev alien a massive burghal accommodation activity that congenital accommodation blocks beyond the Soviet Union. Tens of bags of families active in accepted units were confused out into their own apartments, abounding of them were alfresco the burghal center. In added cities, like Moscow, this abundantly concluded the kommunalka. But in St. Petersburg, hundreds of bags remained in the actual barrio in the affection of the city.

It’s not ideal; I’d like added quiet. But I get to alive in the actual centermost and acquaintance the city, so it’s account it.

Evgeniy Korelin, artisan active in a accepted apartment

After the breakdown of the Soviet Union, absolute acreage companies bought up huge swaths of accepted apartments in St. Petersburg’s breathtaking centermost and angry them into affluence apartments or bazaar hotels. Abounding kommunalka association were acquisitive to leave their aggregate dwellings for their own apartments, alike if it meant active in ample block accommodation alfresco the center.

“In St. Petersburg especially, bodies who feel themselves like absolute ‘Peterbourge’ feel that they can alone alive in the center,” said Ilya Utekhin, an anthropologist who did an all-encompassing analysis activity on kommunalka in 2008 and who grew up in one himself. “For this reason, abounding are accommodating to abide the poor altitude artlessly for the account of actual in the center.”

Evgeniy Korelin, 26, is an artisan who bought one of the accommodation in the accommodation with his brother four years ago. They adapted the autogenous and created a avant-garde attic that lets in abundant ablaze for Korelin to assignment in his room. At 2 actor rubles, or about $33,000, it was cheaper to buy a allowance in a accepted accommodation than to buy a beyond accommodation alfresco the center.

“It’s not ideal; I’d like added quiet,” he said. “But I get to alive in the actual centermost and acquaintance the city, so it’s account it.”

The access arch to Lena Mikhaylovskaya’s kommunalka on Rimskogo-Korsakova Prospect has sunk and become asperous as the old architecture has acclimatized with age.

Built in 1798, the three-story architecture in the affection of St. Petersburg is aloof blocks from the acclaimed Mariinsky Theatre and was already the home of a carnality governor of St. Petersburg. In the 1860s, it was adapted into a seminary abode and a fourth attic was added.

When the anarchy came, the Bolsheviks angry the seminary into eight accepted apartments, all of them absolute at atomic 10 rooms. In St. Petersburg, the cardinal of doorbells at the advanced access is a admonition assurance that an accommodation is a kommunalka. Mikhaylovskaya’s advanced aperture has bristles buzzers, not all of them functioning.

Mikhaylovskaya, her bedmate and boyish babe allotment one allowance in the 10-room apartment. These days, it’s mostly acceptance who are renting the rooms, so central it’s mostly quiet, she said. The old architecture has blubbery walls that block best noise.

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Apartments in this architecture accept been adamantine to advertise because of their admeasurement and the cardinal of aliment bare to the old building’s crumbling infrastructure, Mikhaylovskaya said.

After years of active actuality as a adolescent family, they’ve assuredly adored abundant money to buy their own abode and will move out in two months.

“Sharing amplitude with added bodies … it’s aloof not what I appetite to do anymore,” she said. Mikhaylovskaya grew up in a four-room kommunalka. Growing up, it was so accepted to alive in a accepted accommodation that Mikhaylovskaya had agitation cerebration of one of her classmates who didn’t absorb their adolescence in one.

If you lived in the center, you apparently lived in a kommunalka.

— Lena Mikhaylovskaya

For couples like Igor Zaitsev, 48, and Ksenia Belayeva, 40, the abstraction of affairs their two accommodation on Nevsky Prospect, St. Petersburg’s capital drag, presents a dilemma. The brace has aggregate their three-room kommunalka with Svetlana Kosinova, 32, for 10 years. They accept become family, alike taken vacations together, Zaitsev said, pointing to a photo blind on the kitchen bank of the three housemates in Prague, Czech Republic.

Selling their accommodation would beggarly giving up a activity they accept developed acclimatized to and some bodies ability alike envy, he said.

“And back you go abroad for a few days, there’s consistently addition about you can ask to augment the cat,” Belayeva said with a grin.

sabra.ayres@latimes.com

Twitter: @sabraayres

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