St. Petersburg | Moscow | Tver | Ryzan
2013 / 2014

Russian Wall carpets went from a necessity to an icon of wealth, and from a showpiece to a runnin gag. It has become a symbol for the young and old generations of Russians, thinking completely the opposite about life. How did a simple product receive this status?

During the 50's and 60's there was a lack of housing facilities in Russia. The decision was made to build quick and cheap flats on a very large scale. The so-called 'Khrushchyovkas', named after the leader of the U.S.S.R. at that time: Nikita Khrushchev. The new appartments gave Russian citizens a private place, but also lacked some essential features. For instance good isolation, so cold air could enter the houses trough the thin walls. Heating was controlled from a central point in the city. This also caused the houses to be cold at certain days.

All those reasons together made isolation a big problem. The idea came up to put the carpets on the walls instead of on the floor. So at least the places where isolation was important (next to the bed and sofa) became warm again.

So initially the Russian wall carpets were not a form of art or decoration (as in other countries), but just a necessity. But the usage of carpets became also a sign of wealth. The rich part of the middle class often decided to buy a big carpet for the livingroom. Of course for isolation, but also to show their wealth to family and friends. The carpets could easily cost eight times an average Soviet months salary.

Nowadays the Russian middle class can afford new appartments with much better isolation. So the carpets disappear from the walls as soon as possible: It's out of fashion and not necessary anymore. As much as the carpets were loved by the old generation, the youth hates the old Soviet product. It reminds them to the old regime and to poverty. They make fun of the carpets on internet by posing in front of the so-called "dust collectors".

The carpets went from a necessity to an icon of wealth and from a showpiece to a running gag. The carpet has become a symbol for the young and old generations of Russians, thinking completely different about their lives.

Stichting Fonds Anna Cornelis
Special thanks go out to Stichting Fonds Anna Cornelis, a Dutch organisation for encouraging documentary photography. They decided to finance the project and therefore they made this documentary become reality.
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