Meet Your New Neighbors…in the House of Government

Built on the banks of the river Moscow, the House of Government was home to nearly three thousand residents, drawn largely from the government workers of Soviet Russia. Including cinemas, theaters, exercise facilities, creches, and multiple canteens and restaurants, the House of Government epitomized the aspirations of collective plenty that fueled socialist revolution. But what was the experience of living in this colossal building? Imagine yourself a young apparatchik from the provinces moving into an apartment in this prestigious block: let me introduce just a few of your neighbors, from the dozens who appear in Yuri Slezkine’s House of Government.

“Welcome to the House of Government. You must be doing well for yourself to be getting an apartment here, it’s mostly the top government workers here, some from the nomenklatura even. Yes, it’s a big place…thousands living here…two theatres and a cinema, would you believe?…but I pride myself on knowing everyone who lives here. You’ll recognize some of their faces anyway, I’m sure. Like him for instance, that’s Koltsov the journalist…you must read his stuff in Pravda? Seems like he never misses an issue. The young lad with him is his son, well, his adopted son anyway, all the way from Germany, but you wouldn’t know it to speak to him. Talks like a Moscow boy, born and bred. We have quite a few writers…Arosev, for instance…no, I started one once but I couldn’t finish it. It was a bit over my head, to be honest. Same with Voronsky…what was that magazine he ran? Red Virgin Soil? I like something with a good story and people you can believe in. Anyway, he’s up in 357.

Mikhail Koltsov

Mikhail Koltsov

“Ah, comrade Ivanov, let me introduce a new tenant, just moving in on the second floor…Ivanov’s a good man, one of the real Old Bolsheviks, you’d know he was in the streets in 1917, not like some people I could mention, telling you they were in the Winter Palace when they were really hiding under their beds. No airs and graces with Ivanov, he’s done an honest day’s work in his time. “The Baker,” they call him. The woman he’s talking to now is Elena Dimitrievna Stasova, they know each other from old times…she’s with the Comintern now, spent quite a while in Germany working with our comrades there.

“Him? Why, that’s Mironov from the GPU…I could tell you stories about him that would turn your blood cold. They say he caught thousands of traitors when he was in the Ukraine, and not one lived to tell the tale. Shocking to think there are so many out there trying to bring the country down. Must be tough work too…can’t say I’d like to do it myself. I mean, a traitor is a traitor, don’t get me wrong, but still…you’d never think it to see him going out of an evening with his wife. Now she’s something…always dressed to the nines, never a hair out of place. Foreign…Greek, maybe? Definitely not a Russian name, that’s for sure.

Agnessa Argiropulo and Sergei Mironov

Agnessa Argiropulo and Sergei Mironov

“Here we are, this is your floor. There’s nobody on your left at the moment…bit of a sad story really, she was given a one-way ticket to Kazakhstan, and not for any reason that anyone could make out. Still, there must have been something…you don’t wind up stuck on a farm a hundred miles from Almaty for nothing, do you? Tania Miagkova, her name was. Big family on the other side, the Podvoiskys…yes, it is that Podvoisky, Nikolai Ilich from the war. He has some peculiar ideas, let me tell you. Why, one day I stopped by to fix something, knocked on the door, walked in…the whole family was sitting there with not a stitch on them! In December! “It’s good for the health,” says he. I got an eyeful that day. Well, make yourself at home. If you need anything, you know where to find me.”

The Podvoisky family

The Podvoisky family (fully clothed)