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“Renovating” Moscow’s Soviet-era Standardised Housing: The Creation and Destruction of Anachronistic Space



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Mizrokhi, Ekaterina 


In 2017, the Moscow municipality announced the demolition of several thousand Soviet-era, standardised flats (khrushchevki). Known as the Renovation, the project promised to replace the khrushchevki with new residential districts. The municipality justifies the Renovation by claiming that the khrushchevki are decrepit and anachronistic, and that residents are near-unanimous in their support for the demolition. In this dissertation, I theorise the notion of ‘anachronistic space’ and argue that the guiding narrative of the Renovation not only overlooks—but actively suppresses—a variety of local interests that seek to improve, rather than destroy, their long-standing homes. The dissertation develops new empirical and analytical insights into how residents’ relationships to their khrushchevki have been evolving as they await the Renovation. Analysis of these changes proceeds on several scales: from the domestic and the streetscape, to the district and wider urban region. I develop these insights through interviews with stakeholders, Russian-language media analyses, and extended ethnographic research among local residents in a soon-to-be-demolished khrushchevka neighbourhood in Moscow's Northern Izmailovo district in 2019. My research has uncovered the highly-localised experiences of urban change that are idiosyncratic to the case study site. Given a scholarly tendency to study standardised space as a monolith, the methodological and conceptual implications of my findings are therefore significant. I argue that theoretical approaches that generalise insights across socialist-era mass housing estates on account of their architectural “uniformity” jeopardise the accuracy of ethnographic research conducted in such spaces. In turn, this dissertation demonstrates why the local histories of mass housing districts must unequivocally be written in distinct, rather than standardised, terms.





Sternberg, Maximilian


anachronism, demolition, Moscow, postsocialism, Soviet architecture, temporality, urban renewal


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Cambridge Commonwealth, European & International Trust (Unknown)
Cambridge Trust