There are also flats that have single owner but rented as "communalkas" to multiple families, and number of these flats is growing.
You can see "communalkas" in many soviet and russian movies, for example in "The Pokrovsky Gate" (1982) .
1 [rus] - https://mirndv.ru/blog/peterburg-gorod-mostov-belyh-nochej-i...
2 [rus] - https://www.cian.ru/novosti-v-rossii-po-prezhnemu-mnogo-komm...
3 [rus] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xo5PiDzYQCg
The new and smaller housing, especially the even smaller mass apartments of Khruschev times almost never was communal except for the cases of very tight hosing situation in the town or some other relatively rare situations.
For the climate of Russia apartments are good solutions, and having them set in clusters with excellent public transport links and their own set of services it's actually superior to a lot of western suburbs where kids can no longer walk to school because of the distances and dangers and have no playgrounds or limited family facilities.
The layout of mine was quite smart. Lots of sunlight inside, lots of green around it. City centre, close to everything. Cheap. What's not to like?
But whenever a Soviet style building is posted there, someone who lived in that type of building posts that it wasn't so bad.
I like them because they're cheap (and am living in one).
The repression of the regimes that followed didn't spring up in a vaccum, but was a natural evolution of the political environment they operated in.
Plus millennia of a very rich civilization, for the majority of which it was the richest economy in the world, a lot more advanced than the cruder rest of the world, and with a very intricate society and culture.
>Russia was a backwater, with constant repression and terrorism of it's population. Hell, it had serfdom until the mid 19th century.
Well, the US had slavery until the mid 19th century, Jim Crow until the 40s, and segregation until the 70s, so there's that.
That's not how Europe works. Virtually everyone around here is "white". That doesn't prevent racism, it's just racism against Gypsies, or Albanians, or Itelmens, or Jews, or now (often white) muslims.
And of course in Europe we had a big thing for using class differences instead of using race differences as our justification for such things as serfdom.
Well, you'd be surprised. A large part of Europe (Germany, Austria, etc) halted serfdom only a few decades before Russia:
From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pogrom
> A pogrom is a violent riot aimed at the massacre or persecution of an ethnic or religious group, particularly one aimed at Jews. The Russian term originally entered the English language in order to describe 19th and 20th century attacks on Jews in the Russian Empire (mostly within the Pale of Settlement).
At least it is hard to see how the Soviets were an improvement on the past.
You can argue that it was a totalitarian government ruled by dictators, but you cannot argue that it was ruled by an aristocracy or that a peasant couldn't rise up to rule the country.
A well connected Party member or apparatchik could live relatively decently regardless of his ancestry, on "merit" (connectedness) alone. Yes, he could also get shot or imprisoned, but the same was true with the Empire, where he'd never rule.
Stalin was born in a poor family. Lenin's was wealthy middle class, but not aristocratic. Trotsky was born to (wealthy) farmers. Kruschev was the son of peasants
and Brezhnev the son of workers. Just to name a few...
Yes, it absolutely absolutey did. 
And, you only need to stick a spade in the ground, to find literal skeletons in the closet of Imperial Russia (Whose military, historically spent most of its times brutally repressing ethnic minority uprisings... Just like the Soviets did, in the 20th century.)
> send millions of Russians to the gulags
How did you think St. Petersburg was built? With the bones of conscripted serfs. 
Or the Trans-Siberian? Do you think people were volunteering for the chance to work on it? Or, speaking of Siberia, in the rest of that hell-hole? No - Siberia was developed through forced labour of prisoners, under the Katorga system.
Did you think the Russian secret terror police start with the KGB, or the NKVD? This apparatus was invented by aptly-named Ivan the Terrible, who established the Oprichina.
Or the Trans-siberian?
 Persecuting jews: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pogrom#Russian_Empire
 Persecuting muslims: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Muslims#Russian...
 Repression of non-Russians: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russification
That said, for much of the Imperial period, crimes were punished not by banishment, but through mutilation (gouging eyes, cutting off tongues and hands, etc) and execution.
Another saving grace was that it was 10 minute leisurely walk from the university I was attending at the time. How people raised families in the worse variants of these I will never know, thankfully. The only real snag was, I eventually had to move my fridge into my room, because neighbors would steal my food otherwise. Not because they didn't have their own, but because of "Soviet mentality" where private property wasn't really respected, and everyone stole what they could.
This is the period of my life I recall when some latte-sippin' macbook pro totin' millenial here in the US tells me that socialism wouldn't be too bad.
I am also not an expert, but my understanding is that they made some progress on things like education and literacy rate. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_the_Soviet_Union
It doesn't excuse the many things that went wrong during the period. But my intuition is you cannot say it was composed 100% of bad actors and total maliciousness or even incompetence.
No-fault divorce, universal suffrage, equality of races - at least in official policy - all at once, by the 1920s. It was unprecedented.
And it worked, to a certain extent at least. Women got education and entered the (educated, professional) work force (and, during the war, combat divisions). The change for Jewish people (officially oppressed with race-specific laws in Imperial Russia) was immense (Trotsky, one of the top guys, was Jewish - as were many others, before Stalinism).
There was an explosion in arts: a revolution in cinema, music, literature, poetry, architecture, visual arts.
Basically, a lot of the bad things that people associate with Communism are Stalinism, but that came in the 30s, and went away by the 60s.
Now, a lot of other bad things were there from day 0, and some developed post-Stalin. But there were a lot of changes from 1917 to the 20s, to Stalinism, to WW2, and then to Khruschev and Brezhnev.
The country stabilized in the Kruschev-Brezhnev era, and remained static for so long that even those who liked the regime got tired of it. But it's important to see what the changes were.
And equal suffrage in a single party system? What is that worth?
That said, I think that European model is even better. Capitalism with social benefits sounds like the best of both world. Unfortunately modern Russia is more like wicked extreme capitalism. They are bouncing from one extreme to another.
If you skip the whole rulling class. High-level bureaucrats, managers and so on. With separate hospitals, shops, apartment queues and whatnot
> you had guaranteed work place
Likely on the other side of the country thousands of kilometers away. And it was easy to loose that if you stepped on wrong person's toes or came out against glorious communism. Then you'd have super hard time to get any job.
> you had guaranteed home
Likely a komunalka and then getting your own apartment in your 40s when your kids are about to move out.
> you had guaranteed education
Higher education had super tight quotas. It was common for people to take exams over and over again for years to get in. And it was easy to get rejected if you did something politically stupid back in school. Or your parents did. After you eventually graduate - you'd have to go wherever you get assignment. You get to choose from several options if lucky. But if you don't get married while studying (families get assignments to same city, so likely a major one), you're likely to be sent to bum fuck nowhere. Because all assignments to bigger cities are taken by couples.
First, definitions of soviet society, economic life and the country's political structure that try to claim the USSR didn't practice "real communism" are basically leaping right into the no true Scotsman fallacy. It was communism, or a reasonably well enough attempted recreation of the original dogma to be effectively called communism, and it was on the whole an abysmal social failure that even in its real accomplishments achieved them at far higher cost than would have been necessary. Sure, you could also argue that no western country practices true capitalism as your average hardcore libertarian would define it but the degrees of communism and capitalism practiced by both the USSR and much more market-oriented countries respectively were close enough to the "ideals" of both systems to get a solid idea of which is more workable for human society and good human development. The results were extremely divergent, and communism unarguably showed itself to be a failure.
Second, the soviet system was worse than its Tsarist counterpart. The comparisons to the Tsarist system that predated it really don't do justice to the enormous human tragedy unleashed by the Bolshevik revolution and Stalin's later rule in particular. Virtually every single element of repression, misery, poverty and death by government-caused means greatly expanded under communist rule. The Tsars had prison camps, yes, but the soviet GULAG dramatically expanded the brutality and size of the communist version, and the number of reasons that could get a person incarcerated in one of these camps expanded enormously from how things were in the last years of Tsarism. There were famines under Tsarist rule too, but the size and frequency of deadly famines under Soviet rule also enormously expanded. This last being made all the worse with many of the soviet-era famines being the result of either deliberate political intervention or sheer economic incompetence coupled with indifference (the 1921 famine after Lenin's war against the white armies, and the brutal Stalinist collectivization campaigns of the early 1930s).
A thorough reading of any number of history books about the economic and political history of the Soviet Union and Tsarism in its last century clearly shows just how much worse so many things became under the communists, and the uglier sides of the Tsarist regime get way too much attention compared to soviet brutalities as "counterexamples" of Tsarism being worse. Even the entrenched nobility repressing a mass of people with few rights was replicated under the Soviet system but, again, just as or possibly even more rigidly through the existence of the ruling "nomenklatura" and their privileges compared to those of your average Soviet majority of workers.
Sure, the Soviet Union dramatically increased literacy rates, it also electrified and massively industrialized the former Tsarist territories that became the USSR but the cost at which this was done in just a few decades literally numbers into the millions of human lives.
On a final quick note, it's also important to distinguish between Soviet communism under the rule of Lenin and Stalin and the nature of Soviet rule after Stalin's death: Political repression, indifference to mass human suffering and the killing of political prisoners all eased up dramatically from Khrushchev onwards, giving the USSR a somewhat more benign image than it really deserved if you consider how brutal life had become in the 3 decades after the Bolsheviks took power from the much more legitimately popular February revolution that had actually taken power from the last Tsar to form a more liberal democratic government.
I can provide a number of good literary sources for the above claims too if you like, just let me know in a response.
Assertion is not an argument. It clearly abandoned core principles of Marxist Communism, which it claimed to be, in order to bypass the necessity of first having a developed capitalist economy in which broad proletarian class-consciousness developed. And, whether or not one might argue that Marxist Communism itself has authoritarian elements, the vanguardista adaptations made by Lenin were necessarily radically more authoritarian.
Was the USSR’s political system something that fits in some category useful for any purpose with earlier things called “Communism”, or even later ones that aren't it's direct descendants? Maybe. But it was at least as far from Marxist Communism as the modern mixed economy that replaced the system Marx called “capitalism” throughout the developed West is, and other than propaganda utility it's hard to see what real value associating it with some broader “Communism” in opposition to the modern mixed economy has.
A Western migrant would unlikely be hanging out with the most desolate group.
Older generations sometimes live in with younger ones to help care for children and/or care for the elderly as well.
Lack of dedicated bedrooms is a thing, though. Couches that fold out into beds are the norm in Russia.
The sterotypical Soviet "komunalka" involves a multiroom apartment with the common facilities shared by strangers and each bedroom has an extended family living there - i.e. a couple with kids and possibly including grandparents. That's a substantial difference; the exact same conditions feel very different depending on whether you're 25 and single; 35 and married with kids, or 10 and having to find a spot to do your homework while your parents' flatmates are having a "marriage crisis psychotherapy session" over vodka.
Raises hand it me! it me!
To be honest, it was fun at that age, many fond memories. We head great relationship with (most of the) flatmates, which included two very sweet old ladies: an X-Ray technician in one room, and a retiree who eventually moved out and rented her room to a couple with a kid in another. There was also an alcoholic with his wife, and his daughter's family living in a different room - we didn't really talk to either.
Showering was a complex process, because not only one needed to figure out the time sharing, but also the water heater was a tricky beast. Known as 'kolonka', it didn't have a tank: the water was being heated in the pipes as they ran over gas being burned (very common back then). It was hard to get the temperature to be consistent; it had to be a two-person operation, with one person in the shower, and another manning the kolonka. The toilet, thankfully, was separate from the shower (as is common in Europe), which allowed for some degree of parallelization of the person hygiene streams.
The kitchen was huge, and had at least four stoves. No (figurative) bottlenecks there - but that's where you'd bring the (literal) one.
There was only one telephone line, with a rotary phone to match. Anyone would pick it up, and call out loudly to see if the callee is at home.
Everyone fed the cat.
I was lucky to have my own room: my parents' room was large enough that it could be divided into two rooms and a small corridor with an honest-to-God wall. The other couple with a kid also had a large room, but theirs was divided with a bookcase. It was a very old building, the ceilings were 4-5 meters tall, and if one went creative, one could easily build a loft - but no one did.
We moved out when I was 11. The apartment, which housed five families, was consolidated into a regular apartment and sold off to someone rich - just as it was before the Revolution. Everyone got enough money for their rooms to buy an apartment further away from the city center.
That was one aspect of living in the early 90-s that is not coming back soon: there were no rich neighborhoods. There were (newly) rich people, but they didn't build out enclaves yet; everyone was mixed together. The historical center was rather dilapidated, and the people who lived there came from all walks of life. I came back 15 years later, and the city felt like a Disney-fied copy of its former self: clean and painted up, but much less alive.
We moved into a newly-built highrise, with a great view from the 9th floor, and a boiler that had a tank. I finally felt comfortable inviting friends over to our place.
We remained friends with most of the flatmates, and visited each other in the years after. The communal get-togethers (i.e. people staying in the kitchen smoking and talking about everything ranging form world politics to personal things) were a missed aspect.
The X-Ray technician worked for as long as I could remember, which, I think, how she maintained a clear mind going into a very old age. The other one didn't fare as well: she got scammed out of her apartment, IIRC by someone who got some sort of guardianship arrangement with her (help with basic necessities and whatever old people need) in exchange for inheriting the apartment. The arrangement, ad well as the scam, were common at the time.
She was found in the streets, not being quite coherent, and somehow, the police reached my father, who had to take care of the situation. We found out she had an estranged daughter in Moscow, who didn't want to have to do anything with all of that. And so we were the closest people she had left. My father arranged for the old woman to be put in a mental health hospital, which was probably for the best. Whatever was left of the Soviet healthcare system at least meant that you didn't have to pay for it.
In retrospect, another downside of getting our own place was that flatmates having a "marriage crisis psychotherapy session" were, most often, my parents. I could always go either of the old ladies' places in the communal apartment to weather out the storm. At the new highrise, I didn't know who our neighbors were.
Ultimately, I don't know if it even made my parents much happier. I think, in the end, it was just not that important. The reason, I feel, is that the Soviet work ethic was, in its idealized state, very Protestant in spirit: one was to find their self-actualization in work. "From each according to their own abilities" and all that. Things like housing conditions and personal relationships were, ideally, secondary. "Why? Because we are the pilots, and the sky is our home. Airplanes come first, girls come second", went the popular song, which, by 90s, was utterly obsolete.
Most of the people weren't quite sold on that, but quite a few were. Some never changed. And, as many articles here on HN discuss, tying one's happiness to work and success leads to a predictable crisis.
But, having grown up, and having lived with and without roommates in the US, I do agree - that's a substantial difference.
The thing that determined the dynamics of the communal flats the most was that people usually owned their part of the flat (post-USSR), and so were much more invested and tied to it. Even more so in the Soviet times: it was very hard to change your housing (not impossible, and there was a black exchange market, but something that required a lot of effort). So people in communal flats were stuck with each other over a span of decades.
My family lived in a communal flat for 12 years, most of it with the same 4 families. So yes, very different from the way people live with roommates.
That whole 'kommunalka' model obviated itself by the end of the 90-s.
I'm still stuck with my tiny 2-room apartment on the edge of Moscow's suburbia, but hardly even visit the place now.
The commute to work is nearly 3 hours so I'm renting it to my friend (who has a remote-ish job) for a really small fee, compared to the outrageous prices Moscow has. Didn't want to rent it to a random street person for various reasons, and the rent market is nonexistent there.
Being tiny, this place is unbelievably cozy and quiet. So quiet you almost feel like you've been placed in a vacuum compared to what's you've gonna experience every day in the big city.
By the end of Khrushev's tenure, most people were no longer living in communal housing.
Now if you're working for a prestigious institution in high-up position, that patch of land gets bigger, you may be able to pull together resources to build a summer house there and the whole communal garden might be a prime location surrounding a lake, bordering a forest and so on.