Makeshift modernity: DIY, craft and the virtuous homemaker in new Soviet housing of the 1960s

2015-11-04T12:29:42Z (GMT) by Susan Reid
In cities across the Soviet Union in the late 1950s and early 1960s, new housing developments of plain five-storey apartment blocks mushroomed thanks to an intensive programme for mass industrialised housing construction launched by the Party-State in 1957. Modern living conditions were to be created for millions, it was promised, through state planning and investment in the modernisation of construction, making maximum use of technology and factory prefabrication in place of bricklaying and other artisanal methods. Drawing on oral history and material culture, this article attends to some contradictory, seemingly unplanned and un-modern aspects of popular agency entailed in producing the modern Soviet environment, including the role of local improvisation, DIY and manual craft. These were not necessarily resistant to or subversive of the socialist state’s modernisation project but had a more complex and ambivalent relation to it, as complementary or compensatory accommodations that “tuned” universal models to local contingency.