Policy Memos

The Houses That Khrushchev and Brezhnev Built: Citadels of Support or Incubators of Political Protest?

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One of the biggest movie hits of the Soviet era, The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath (1975), still shown around New Year’s Day on Russia’s major television channels to high ratings, exploited the profound social implications of a 30-year boom in mass housing construction under former Soviet leaders Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev. In the movie, the protagonist, who had moved into a newly-built high-rise apartment in Moscow, drinks one too many on New Year’s Eve with his friends, who put him on a plane to Leningrad (St. Petersburg) by mistake. Still under the influence of vodka and unaware he is in a different city, he gives his Moscow address to the cab driver – “Construction Workers’ Street” – and finds himself in an identical high-rise apartment complex. His key fits the door lock and inside he finds the apartment layout and even the furniture exactly the same as that which he had had in Moscow. Millions of Soviet viewers laughed at this setup, which was not as far removed from reality as someone who had not lived in the Soviet Union might think. [...]

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About the author

Professor of Political Science
San Diego State University