In an overcentralized and hence imitational culture, such as Russian (I daresay the latter somehow results from the former), the principles of urban planning and dominant styles in architecture often changed overnight at the behest of a czar or general secretary. Such culture also means that political or social ideas are borrowed from abroad, uncritically most of the time, and then just get "adapted" to local conditions, or “tied to terrain”, as this process is called in Russian. In fact, the authorities just impose them upon the masses without much regard to the lifestyles of the latter. This was the case with the khrushchovki – the Khrushchev-era mass housing projects. The design of a five-storeyed block of flats made of prefabricated slabs was purchased from a French architectural firm, Camus, which had been busy developing standardized housing for the working class in the post-WWII Le Havre, France. The French housing project designed as a local and rather temporary solution has thus morphed into a huge industry, with prefabs made of concrete or bricks changing the very face and becoming the true calling card of Soviet Russia and the Communist countries. But importing this technology from the West to build cramped but separate housing for workers also inadvertently involved importing the mass individualism, or what later became its Soviet iteration. Millions of Soviets were relocated from hutments, barracks, and communal flats to live separately from one another. Millions of villagers left their homes and came to cities to live in prefabs. The true Soviet Russian communality thus was to become a thing of the past sooner or later.

When I first thought of how to visually reflect on this phenomenon which still in many ways defines our today’s post-Soviet landscape, the initial impulse was to borrow a ‘prefabricated’ form and use it for a local task, that is, to make a typology of similar black and white photographs “in the style of” Bernd and Hilla Becher. This proved impossible though, both technically and idea-wise: because the Khrushchev apartment blocks form rather dense developments with often overgrown greenery I just could not photograph them so as to capture the entire building, from either front or side. And the black and white would just emphasize the prevalent idea of those housing projects as an infinite multitude of identical industrial products deprived of any individuality worth consideration. I then thought I should rather photograph on color and only entrances as the most symbolically charged elements of the building, which also provided the viewer with the result of that “adaptation” in its utmost beauty and detail. I guess I managed to visualize those details and traces of genuine life and everyday culture worth at least to be looked at. I mean all those crooked joints of slabs and unevenly laid bricks, makeshift porches and doors, doormats, traces of reparations, rebuilds, paint touchups, flowers growing out of tyres, benches painted in different colors, gratings on windows, etc. Thus, juxtaposing images of a multitude of seemingly identical structures and looking at them closely, reveals individualities and even some handmadeness – paradoxically, and similarly to the way the mass Soviet individualist came out of these very, seemingly standardized entrances.

About the title: why 245 exactly? This figure is both haphazard and not. I first wanted to photograph one entrance of every Khrushchev five-storeyed block of flats that remain in Moscow as they are thought to be gradually replaced with more modern housing. When I searched the Internet to know how many are still around, the results were referring to various statements by city officials saying there remained something from 245 to 270 of them to demolish all over Moscow. I began photographing and got 245 buildings just in three of Moscow's 125 districts.

Replacement of outdated Khrushchev-era buildings is a political issue in Moscow but in the absence of public politics officials can easily manipulate figures knowing that no one would ever count how many truly remain. Which means that in our sterilized political environment even such a locally-focused project becomes a sort of a political performance: the artist counts how many khrushchovki remain and inadvertently reveals a reality that exposes an official manipulation. 

Each photograph is captioned with the postal address of the building linked to Google Street View or Google Maps.

To photographs.