Mark B. Smith
Based on an abundance of previously unexplored sources, this study breaks new ground in its analysis of Soviet property relations. Within fifteen years of the end of the Second World War, many tens of millions of Soviet city dwellers had been rehoused - liberated from shelters and overcrowded communal dwellings - and the paradox of housing ownership rights under proto-communism had been clarified. The transformation of the Soviet cityscape and of popular living conditions underwrote many other changes in Soviet life. In this first, full-length study of one of the major social reforms of 20th-century European history, Smith presents an analysis built on hundreds of previously unexplored sources that include papers from state and municipal archives, material from the popular and professional press, legal tracts, films, novels, and personal accounts. "Property of Communists" makes two substantial contributions to historical scholarship. First, it challenges the commonplace belief that the housing program was entirely a post-Stalin reform and discusses in detail its wartime and late Stalinist origins as well as its escalation under Khrushchev.
Second, the originality of Smith's study involves property relations, as he demonstrates that the Soviet housing stock was never a monolithic item of state ownership, but was the subject of multiple tenures that invested the individual resident with substantial rights of possession. With its wide chronological framing, its reappraisal of the status of property and ownership in the first communist society, and its anchoring in comparative history, this provocative book will appeal to a broad audience of European historians and Soviet scholars and students.