Scenes from the Bathhouse and Other Stories of Communist Russia

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Scenes From The Bathhouse And Other Stories of Communist Russia

If you havde a speacial request, give us a call. Should your order not arrive within 21 business days [M-F], please contact us promptly for resolution. List this Seller's Books. Payment Methods accepted by seller. AbeBooks Bookseller Since: 06 July The exhibition, which provided examples of healthy products and ways of life, including healthy architecture, followed the First International Exhibition of Hygiene of , organized by a soap manufacturer.

In the exhibition was transformed into a permanent establishment, turned in Nazi times into a venue for exploring ideas about eugenics. In the first version, the eye oversees architecture, and is stylized to emit rays, like the sun. The image was supposed to manifest both the power of science to illuminate earthly mysteries as well as the vehicle of this power, eyesight, embodied in new scientific technologies: the microscope and the X-ray. The most popular exhibit at the convention was the Glass Man, a transparent plastic figure of a male, with veins made of copper wire and specially dried and prepared internal organs, illuminated by electric lighting.

Visitors were fascinated by the opportunity to see the interior of a body. There are many Soviet examples that follow the logic of transparency, such as the Narkomfin house of Ginzburg and Milinis, the model of which was exhibited in Dresden. The proletarian body was not a see-through body. The power of cure was not the power of the eye, the power of reason. The power of the state to cure and purify was not conceived as the power to see, but rather a hidden power, to process and produce. It was the power of the machine, an invisible power operating behind the scenes.

The narratives about the processing of the body in official documents provide more insight into how these two systems of logic are connected. Around the same time that Gegello designed the Sanitary Conveyor, Soviet bureaucracy was extending the notion of bodily processing by creating a scheme for recycling organic and inorganic substances found in the banya , so that all matter produced in the bathing process could be reused.

Bureaucracy and rational management would merge the organic and the inorganic, the body and the building, the machine and the organism, creating a universal cycle of matter. NarKomKhoz, in cooperation with scientific and research institutes, approached the investigation of these issues:. Other ideas included using fiber from hair left in bath water, as well as all the paper, used to wrap clean clothes, that was handed back.

The idea of rejuvenating the body was coupled with recycling the substances it left behind. One of these substances, human hair, was not only integrated into the chemical ecosystem of the building, but also built into the very edifice, as construction material. In his visionary projects, developed while he was designing the Sanitary Conveyor, Gegello went further than the state administration.

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The banya building type would process bodies in all their physical and metaphysical states. In Problems of Municipal Economy Gegello, working together with David Krichevsky, uses the formal solution that he employed for the Sanitary Conveyor in the design for a crematorium fig. The project is not fantastic when we consider that the idea of using the banya as a crematorium was not alien to the Soviet post-Revolutionary administration.

The first Leningrad facility for cremation the alternative to church burial was established in in the banya of the Vasileostrovsky District Semeneva The attempt was not a great success, and the facility was only used for a couple of months, but the concept returned in , when baths and crematoriums were grouped together in city planning. Both the banya that recycles hair as building material and the banya -crematorium reflect the desire to create a comprehensive hygiene regimen that would involve total processing on one site. In the case of the Soviet banya , these were also the rites of initiation into a society that was undergoing a process of industrialization.

According to the ideology of the period, citizens were to experience intimate contact with the machine, to submit to its invisible and magical powers.

The Russian Revolution (1917)

The Soviet subject was supposed to establish a relationship with the state; by experiencing the change of bodily states and participating in a circulation of matter, the Soviet subject became connected to the power that administered the transformation of the economy and the circulation of materials and goods.

The banya is therefore not only a conveyor, a factory belt, a machine for the mass production of hygiene. Through architecture, power is de-individualized. It is abstract power, and power established by aesthetic means. As we have already seen, the power of the socialist state and its medicine is not envisioned as the power of the eye. Thus the logic is slightly different. The architectural mechanism is, in this case, not a visual mechanism but a mechanism defined by choreographies of cleansing.

What is the key to the ritual transformation of the citizen in the banya , and what is at the center of this experience? Where does the transformative power of the banya reside? The most fantastic example of architecture dedicated to the initiation into the industrial society through care of the self is the round banya. The round banya , like other banya s, was a symbolic microcosm of hygiene, an aesthetic milieu that reflected power relationships and articulated choreographies of hygiene, but it was also formally articulated as a microcosm, and resembled the general scheme of the Panopticon.

This was not only a visceral but also a mystical experience. The first round banya appeared in , before the First Five-Year plan. The plan was in the shape of the world. It had a gigantic glass dome, akin to Byzantine churches, in which the dome represented the heavens. These heavens, however, were mechanically operated: a mechanism that could open and close them, depending on the weather fig. The building is not level with the ground. Dressing, showering, and steaming facilities are buried two meters below ground level, and the solarium on the roof is two meters above, connected to the ground only by narrow ramps.

Scenes from the bathhouse and other stories of Communist Russia.

This collective bodily care is unlike the debauchery on the banks of the Moscow River described by Klutsis. The model is divided into half, one side for male and one side for female users, with separate entrances. Hygiene is precisely choreographed: facilities for dressing, bathing, and steaming are planned to appear in succession. The precise choreography is necessary, because this banya can process five hundred bathers per hour. A collective spirit is not achieved through the mingling of users, however, but through collective immersion into the immense pool in the center of the construction, fifty-four meters in diameter, in which the organized bathing ritual culminates.

This space is dedicated to proletarian mass baptism under the mechanized heavens, in a world of mass pleasure and mass cure. The transformative power of the banya resides in the collective experience of hygiene, a collective immersion into a well-tempered environment. At the center of the banya and, by extension, of the Communist world of which it is an image, are the proletarian masses and the power of the Communist esprit de corps.

There was no dome and no roof deck. Instead of separate entrances for the men and women, the project had one entrance, and the separation took place in the interior. A photograph of this project was published in USSR in Construction , a lavishly illustrated elite international journal of propaganda of which El Lissitzky was the editor fig. Even as a scaled-down version of the original conception, this round banya was considered a unique and spectacular achievement of the socialist state and a symbol of its civilizing effort, both as a model site of mass hygiene and as an example of radical modernist architecture.

The most interesting element of the built project is not what is there but what is not there. Physically, but also conceptually, it is unclear what is at the center of the Communist world. In Ladinsky designed another round banya , which opened in the Siberian city of Tyumen fig.

Banya , Tiumen, by Anatoly Ladinsky. Reprinted from Sovremennaia Arkhitektura , 1 January , Ladinsky comes up with rational justifications for creating a round banya : the shape minimizes and protects the outer wall, and is more compact. The banya has no exterior lighting because the main activities are organized around the central core, a heating shaft three meters in diameter with air ducts.

This shaft prevents the exterior from being damaged by moisture and ice. The main idea behind this scheme is to demonstrate not only rational ideas but also the desire to isolate the building from its surroundings, both optically and climatically. Architecture with thick skin, as discussed earlier, embodies a completely different kind of authority and power: not that of the technologically augmented eye but specifically that of the machine as a magical instrument that can heal and transform, a medicinal power. Banya hygiene is not about the power to see but the power to produce.

Ladinsky calculated that the citizen will spend five minutes undressing, forty minutes washing and steaming, and fifteen minutes dressing, accomplishing his task in an hour of constant activity. These are arranged according to temperature. The citizen follows a prescribed path, which prevents a mixing of the dirty and the clean.

Scenes from the Bathhouse: And Other Stories of Communist Russia by Mikhail Zoshchenko

Through the banya , the body is exposed to the power of the machine, which heats, cools, washes, and steams the body. This economy, however, and the bathing choreography materialized in this building, unlike the efficient mechanized bath in the West, is not only the site of collective intercourse and a collective experience of mechanization, but also an economy which involves mystical elements, despite the rationalist rhetoric.

The care of the body takes place in a round, isolated microcosm that resembles, in its conception and with its zones of different heat, the solar system. In a way, being processed in a health apparatus like the round banya resembles travelling to the center of the world and back. The machine of efficiency does not cease to be a machine of magic, even when it loses spectacular elements, such as the leaping swans, gaping frogs, and sparkly jets of water of the banya in Figure 1. What happens, in effect, is that the microcosm of the round banya presents us with an image of the world mechanized, of a kind that is supposedly rational and efficient, but which acquires cosmological features with a machine in the center.

What was this cosmological modernization about? The urban proletariat could apprehend modernization immediately, as the regulation of sensations of hot, cold, steamy, and wet; it could enjoy it as an environment that runs perfectly; and it could experience it as the subject of bodily processing.

Ultimately, the banya was the world: a world inhabited by the mechanized proletariat. The architecture of the banya around , which was so intimately related to the understanding of the proletarian self, not only articulated the aesthetic and ethic of mass cleanliness, as was the case in both Europe and the Soviet Union.

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It was also related to a conception of society and the world as parts of a machine. The banya was an abstract machine, in which the bathing process was a process of production. The experience of that process established the relationship between the Soviet subject and state authority, which organized such mechanized production and the broader processes of industrialization. The characteristic of all these projects is that the production of hygiene, and by extension, industrialized production in general, was both an example of modern efficiency and a transcendental experience.

The architecture of mass hygiene in this particular moment in Soviet history employed mechanized cleansing as a collective rite in which pleasure, physical sensation, and often rapture helped convey a unique experience of modernity and proletarian belonging. The architecture of the banya , in its many forms, created a system in which efficiency and magic and modernity and the occult worked together.

Binshtok, I Bannoe khozyaistvo Leningrada Bathhouse management in Leningrad. Bogdanov, I A St Petersburg: Isskustvo. Brahan, W W Plumbing: Sounding Modern Architecture. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, pp. Colomina, B Cambridge: MIT Press. St Petersburg: V. Foucault, M Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Pantheon. Gastev, A Petrograd: Proletkult. Giedion, S New York: Oxford University Press, pp. Goldenberg, N A Banya dlya voisk i dlya narodnykh mass v gigienicheskom, sanitarnom, lechebnom i ekonomicheskom otnoshenii: kratkiya ukazaniia dlya vrachei; dlya voiskovikh chastei, gorodskikh i zemskikh upravlenii; dlya shkol, fabrik, zavodov, i dr.

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    Lissitzky, L Dluhosch, E trans. Russia: Architecture for World Revolution. Bulletin of the NKKK 26— Overy, P London: Thames and Hudson. Rammo, V A The Politics of Aesthetics. Email address:. Please provide an email address. Categories of Interest: Select All. Current Affairs. Historical Fiction. True Crime. Profession: Author. Event Coordinator. Film Executive. Foreign Publisher.