Home Housing Housing Basics Moscow apartments: Living through history
Last update on June 11, 2021

When looking for a property to rent or buy in Moscow, you’ll find differing housing types from 19th-century buildings to Soviet- and post-Soviet era structures.

Deciphering interior design and decorating terms is only half the battle in understanding apartment listings in Moscow. You become somewhat of a history buff to visualize the types of buildings that house Moscow’s apartments.

Moscow’s residential properties, which are historical landmarks in and of themselves, range from flats in 19th-century buildings that housed Tsarist institutions and members of the aristocracy to apartments in Soviet- and post-Soviet era structures that differ widely in both type and quality.

Moscow’s small mansions

The majority of Tsarist-era buildings are in the city center. Many are small mansions, which remind us of the Muscovites of old. Can’t you just picture ladies in floor-length skirts and gentlemen with hats and canes ascending the elaborate entranceways? Today, these mansions have one or two apartments on each floor. While such accommodations don’t have elevators, they offer an escape from Moscow’s towering high-rises. They also remind you of the city’s aristocratic past.

Larger architectural treasures, built in the late 19th to early 20th centuries, combine history with a sense of luxury. Apartments located in these pre-revolutionary buildings feature high ceilings with intricate, original moldings, spacious rooms, large windows, and, sometimes, fireplaces. Their beautiful facades offer the utmost in style and prestige and are, accordingly, pricy.

Architecture in the Stalinist era

After the communist revolution of 1917, a bloody civil war ensued. There was no new construction in Moscow for the next decade. The buildings erected in the thirties, forties, and fifties reflect Joseph Stalin’s totalitarian rule. These imposing buildings, found along Moscow’s main avenues, such as Tverskaya and Kutuzovsky Prospect, as well as the Moscow River embankments, provide solid and spacious homes.

The Seven Sisters, or the city’s seven Stalin-era skyscrapers, are also grandiose examples of the architecture of the time. Only three of these skyscrapers, however, all of which boast breathtaking views, large balconies, and magnificent entrances, are residential.

Post-Stalin design

After Stalin’s death, residential construction in Moscow focused on quantity at the expense of design and construction quality. Driven by the goal of mitigating the housing shortage, without any attempt at impressing or intimidating the West, housing of the 1960s and 1970s is unremarkable. These six to eight stories high concrete buildings have brick facades and smaller apartments that provide basic, but reasonable accommodations.

The yellow brick high rises, also built in the 70s and 80s, are ministerial buildings, erected to house high-level Communist Party and state officials. One can experience the life of a Communist Party boss by renting one of the spacious apartments, located in the ministerial buildings.

Life after Communism

Life in Moscow has changed dramatically since the days of Communist rule. Among other changes, banks and casinos have sprung up all over the city, and in 2003, Forbes Magazine ranked Russia as having the third-highest number of billionaires in the world.

Built to address the demands of Russia’s new elite, modern residential complexes represent the most luxurious accommodations found in Moscow today. These high-security facilities often have self-contained mechanical systems, spas, gyms, and other modern amenities far removed from former times.

An apartment search in Moscow is intertwined with the city’s turbulent history and the exciting changes it is undergoing today. With a bit of preparation, however, you should have no trouble finding your perfect home, be it historic or ultramodern. Good luck and see you around Moscow!

Evans Property Services / Expatica