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The mysteries of St. Petersburg’s apartments


A window-ghost, Daily News of 1912 and other secrets of communal flats – in Pavel Nikoforov’s report.


Pavel Nikiforov, reporter: “Just imagine – you’re moving into an apartment with two large windows. But from the outside you see not two windows, but three – and the third one is huge, laid over with bricks from the other side. And such things define today’s St. Petersburg, where communal flats are reshaped into spacious apartments. And things which have been hidden from the public’s eye for the last hundred years are revealed beyond oil paint, soviet wallpaper and covers”

The window puzzle is absolutely real. Architect Lidval’s residential building – at the very top of the Malaya Konushennaya. When Ekaterina bought an apartment here, moved in and started doing renovation – she couldn’t figure out, why there were two windows inside, but three outside. The third one is this one – small, narrow window. And the main thing was finding it inside the apartment.

– Where did you assume it was inside the apartment? Its not always possible to correlate something seen from the outside with a concrete spot inside.

Ekaterina, resident of the building at Malaya Konushennaya 1-3: “The spot was unclear, but it was clear that it was between the two windows. We demolished the wall first, took down the wallpaper and bricks. It was an interesting moment when we took out bricks – one by one – and found this little marvel”

And this is how it looked during the renovation. The window was painted over with white oil paint. And the wall had been covering it for a whole century. By the way, one of the theories is that this window was not simply for decoration. Given that it had two covers and there was space between the window, it could have served as a refrigerator of sorts – where food could’ve been stored during winters.

Ligovskiy, 139. Kuritsina’s profit house. Built in 1908. St. Petersburg’s restaurant owner Kirill Yudanov bought an apartment here a year ago. Bought a communal flat for four families with 5 rooms and reshaped it into a spacious apartment – the way it had been prior to the revolution. This is how it looked before the renovation. And there were interesting finds here too.

Kirill Yudanov, resident of building at Ligovskiy 139: “I didn’t get as lucky as some. But I also had a funny find. These bottles laid under three layers of wooden planks. Must’ve got there during a renovation long time ago.

In 1918, a decree came out absolving private property and real estate in cities. The era of stuffing began – when spacious luxurious apartments were chopped into ten parts, while exquisite decorations – ceiling ornaments, fireplaces and wall paintings were killed by DIY renovations. A hundred years later we are doing the opposite, while revealing interesting things – and those are forming a whole new phenomenon. But Kirill went further. Having finished with the apartment, he took on the entrance to the building.

Kirill Yudanov, resident of building at Ligovskiy 139: “The entrance was colored into an acid green color. Everything – the walls, the ceiling and hand rails”

This is how it looked before the renovation. Dirty, with a bad smell, with a weird color. Kirill went to the local household management, but received no help. He had to do everything on his own. As a result, the ceiling ornaments were revealed, the fireplace – and the walls returned to its grey-ish color, same as the one on the façade. This is also a new phenomenon – when residents renovate their homes. Not juts apartments, but the whole buildings

Grigoriy Lysak is a painter from a family of painters. He often conducts renovations of St. Petersburg’s mansions and profit houses. And during those works, Grigoriy often finds newspapers – beyond the layers of Soviet wallpapers and paint – which he then uses in his own paintings.

Grigoriy Lysak, painter-architect: “This Soviet period is wonderful for one reason. People basically did nothing – they just painted over things. In layers. And even when we got to the bricks of pillar walls, we found newspapers of the early 20th century. Perfectly preserved under the layers of green paint.

– Whats the most bizarre finding?

– I found an edition of “Daily News”, dated five days before Titanic’s demise – April 10th 1912

Not only you can paint, based on these newspapers, but also learn history. Of the world, our country, our city. Grogoriy has a series of paintings dedicated to the found newspapers – where news of Titanic aside, you can see stock market digests, criminal news and tales of the Blockade. The paint and walls conserved these artifacts of the past/ And today, while refurbishing the communal flats, those are being revealed. The twists and turns of history, which uncover a whole layer of what we seemed to have lost forever.