Between 1990 and 1996, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) financed a housing programme in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus for soldiers of the Soviet armed forces returning from the territory of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR): the CIS housing construction programme. The aim of this study was to examine whether the housing estates of the CIS housing construction programme can be seen as part of the socialist city. Using an infrastructure-centred approach the investigation of the question was based on two examples: the Makulan settlement in Kryvyj Rih, Ukraine, and the settlement in Ross‘, Belarus.
The socialist city has changed its appearance over the years – from Stalinist buildings to modernism to socialist postmodernism. The central starting point of the socialist city was the microrayon, a separate urban unit outside the core city with between 5,000 and 20,000 inhabitants. Ideologically – after the change in building policy under Chruščev from the 1960s onwards – architecture was no longer defined by form but by content, whereupon the focus shifted from aesthetic questions of building to the housing programme. Nevertheless, the settlements followed the modernist ideals of functional separation and the car-oriented city.
For the CIS housing programme the FRG invested a total of DM 8.35 billion in the construction of more than 45,000 dwellings at 43 locations in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. The programme was led by the Ministry of Economics on the German side and the Ministry of Defence on the Soviet (later Russian) side. At the heart of the programme was the Consulting Consortium Wohnungsbau UdSSR (CWU). The Soviet Ministry of Defence determined the location, the number and size of dwellings as well as the future social infrastructure. In terms of construction methods, architecture and urban design, however, the construction companies were completely free.
The settlements are located in both large cities such as Kryvyj Rih (Ukraine), but also in small villages such as Ross‘ (Belarus), but always near military sites. The size ranges from 1,500 to 5,300 inhabitants. Thus, they are smaller than typical microrayons. The two example settlements differ noticeably. In terms of urban planning, the settlement in Kryvyj Rih was already outdated at the time of its completion in 1992. However, the relatively modern tunnel formwork construction method was used. In Ross‘ the design of the buildings and the urban arrangement was carried out in the contemporary style of socialist postmodernism. The dwellings, however, are a separate version of the Belarusian slab construction series 90. As in the Soviet Union, the responsible housing management administration allocated the flats of the CIS housing construction programme via lists, mainly to officers and high ranking army officials.
So what remains in the end? From an infrastructure-centred point of view, it becomes clear that the settlements of the CIS housing programme formally correspond to the socialist city and have remained within this formal framework. In terms of content, the reference to the ideas of socialism is completely absent. Despite their civilian function, the settlements are – right from the start – closely linked to the military bases and military logic and must, therefore, be seen as part of it. Ultimately, it should be noted that the programme has also shown that quality urban development is possible in crisis situations under great political and time pressure. Looking to the future, it is to be hoped that upcoming housing construction programmes will focus on peacekeeping projects.