Friday, 30 March 2012

A guide to the Общежитие - part 2

ДАС (DAS) isn't really that bad when you get used to it, it was just a bit of a shock for me at first after having not been a student for a while. There were a few things that needed changing (like the fact that my mattress had several big holes in it with springs sticking out of them that poked me every time I moved in the night), but it does have advantages over, say, главное здание (the main building) - it may have cockroaches and no internet, but it doesn't have rats. We used to debate this for a long time - is internet worth rats?

The building is set up as follows. There are two buildings linked by a long entrance hall only a couple of stories high. Two guards are stationed at the entrance to check everyone coming in - they scrutinise your student card with the upmost attention, as if they hadn't seen you enter the building every day for the last six months. It's the same when you leave with a suitcase - you need special permission to do this, presumably in case you steal the kitchen sink. The thing is, it would literally have to be the kitchen sink because there is nothing else to steal.

Anyway, after you get past them, the entrance hall contains the столовая (stolovaya - cafeteria) where they serve food from 7am to 10pm every day, the читальный зал (chitalny zal - reading room/library), the entrance to the old swimming pool (now without water), and, bizarrely enough, up a flight of stairs, the entrance to the solarium (messages about skin cancer have yet to reach Russia).

The entrance hall. The fence-like thing is where you come in, the reading room is up the stairs at the back, and the dining hall is on the left.

The dining hall. The food is not bad and really cheap.
The читальный зал is unusual. Firstly it is unheated, which means you have to wear you coat at all times or risk being found frozen to the table the next morning. Secondly, all the books are at least thirty years old, and are mostly copies of various scientific journals, i.e. totally useless. Thirdly, there are no electric sockets in the place, but there is a giant teddy bear. I had a very circular conversation with the custodian about this. I kept asking her if there were any electric points in the room, and she kept repeating that this was a library, as though this self-evidently meant that electricity would be right out.

If you continue to the end of the entrance hall and into one of the корпусы (corpusy - blocks) you will get to the shop, which is basically a small convenience store, except with better prices, where everyone buys their water. You will also see the lifts, which you can take if you are tired of life. Personally, I think it would be less painless to play Russian roulette, but everyone is allowed to choose their own way of dying, I suppose. They never stop level with the floor, wobble alarmingly as they move, and you can hear the chains groaning as they pull you up the building. I wouldn't be surprised if one day they gave up entirely and the lift plummeted to the basement. And although a small part of me remains convinced that if you jump just before the lift hit the ground you would be ok, most of me knows this wouldn't work. Assuming you don't die, you may also end up stuck for hours if the doors fail to open, which they used to do not infrequently (they have been a lot better for the last couple of months). One of my friends came back late at night to find people shouting for help stuck between the 5th and 6th floors.

The lifts and stairs. NEVER step through the lift doors without checking first that the lift is actually there - sometimes it isn't and you will plunge to your death.
On each floor, there are a bunch of dorm rooms and two kitchens. The rooms are mostly two rooms containing two people each with a bathroom shared between them, but sometimes you are lucky (like me), and get two people in one room with a bathroom to themselves, and sometimes you are unlucky and get six people in a room all sharing one bathroom.

ДАС corridors may look like you are in a horror movie about a mental asylum, but this is, in fact, not true.
The kitchens each contain two sets of four electric rings and three sinks. There are actually several broken cookers behind a low wall, but these are rusted shut, and anyway, they are not plugged in. Baking cakes is right out, but on balance, this is a good thing.

Another unusual thing about ДАС is the fire alarms, which go off at least once a week as people have a stupid habit of smoking in their rooms. The fire alarm is first in Russian and then in a series of other languages. For the English version they found someone from the 1950s to tell you that, "there is a fire in the hostel. Please collect your documents and leave the building by the emergency exits. Do not use the lifts". However, if there is a fire in the night you will be burnt to a crisp, because the fire alarms only go off in the corridors, and are not loud enough to get through doors. The first time I heard the fire alarm, I thought that there might actually be a fire (I know, how stupid can you get?), so I went to the end of the corridor and tried to take the fire escape down to the ground floor. Big mistake. You can't get down to the ground that way - it only goes down to the second floor and then is blocked off. Plus, when I climbed back up to my floor I found the door had locked behind me, so I had to keep climbing up the fire escape until I found a door I could prise open with a biro.

The basic problem with ДАС is that it was built in 1971, and they haven't done anything to it since. Forty years ago it was apparently really a great place to live, and walking past the now-padlocked balconies on every floor, you can see this (kind-of). Now, however, I think the best thing to do would be to demolish the entire building with one of those giant cannon balls on a string and start again.


  1. Thank you! You have done me a huge favor, you don't know how big, to see the pics of a place, I have known in the 1980's, just as Moscow was then, symbolized a transition to nowhere, hopeful and hopeful at the same time! From Brezhenev, Chernenko, Andropov, to the present. "The new person" was not achieved, neither did "Perestroika".

  2. HEY-HEY-HEY!!!
    I lived here for 3 years! Very interesting place;)
    Very glad to see foreigner writing about Moscow inside, just how it is!!))))
    Now I live in other dormitory (ГЗ МГУ), and it is worse than expected (in comparison with yours).
    If you want to contact, visit ;)