Image: A typical Russian kitchen inside an apartment built during the early 1960s. (Courtesy of The Kitchen Sisters)
In 1953, the death of Joseph Stalin brought on a new era of Soviet life – one in which Russian families were able to move out of cramped, communal flats into their own private apartments, with their own private kitchens.
These Soviet kitchens became hotbeds of dissent and culture — especially when it came to forbidden literature. They were a place where people could read and exchange samizdat, or self-published books and documents.
“Samizdat was the most important part of our literature life,” says Alexander Genis, a Russian writer and radio journalist. “And literature was the most important part of our life, period. Literature for us was like movies for Americans or music for young people.”
Genis and his family read The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn together in their kitchen:
"It’s a huge book, three volumes, and all our family sat at the kitchen. And we were afraid of our neighbor, but she was sleeping. And my father, my mother, my brother, me and my grandma — who was very old and had very little education — all sit at the table and read page, give page, the whole night. Maybe it was the best night of my life."
That’s just some of what we learned from the Kitchen Sisters’ history of Soviet kitchens — you can find out more here.