Mustamäe to turn 60

Mustamäe apartment buildings.
Mustamäe apartment buildings. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Estonia's first bedroom suburb or so-called sleeping district Mustamäe will turn 60 this year. Those interested in the everyday life of people back then can now visit an exhibit of a two-room apartment from the era at the Kaja Cultural Center.

Singer Voldermar Kuslap moved to the district in 1966, soon after it was finished. "Mustamäe was infinitely smaller back then, both in terms of population and territory. There were some apartment buildings lining Akadeemia tee, Ehitajate tee and Sõpruse puiestee, and that was mostly it," Kuslap recalled.

"It used to be called Ivangorod for a time, if I'm being completely honest. But while I'm sure there are better places to live, it has never occurred to me to move from the area," the singer said.

Kuslap described the two-room apartment exhibit at Kaja relatively true to the era, only the kitchen has been made out to be larger than it actually is. Most items on display have been donated by Mustamäe residents. While some had to be sought at online auctions, such as wallpaper from the era and legendary Norma tins.

"Sanitary accessories were a big problem," said Aleksandra Lorvi, culture specialist for the Mustamäe district government. "The toilet bowl was there all along, we just didn't know it. A colleague who helped me look for the right one eventually decided that their grandmother's apartment needed a little tuning and simply started renovating it ahead of schedule to help with the project," she explained.

While rummaging through closets in someone else's apartment is usually frowned upon, visitors are urged to do so at the exhibit. Guide Krista Heinpalu, who takes visitors on a tour of the kolkhoz apartment building exhibit at the Estonian Open Air Museum, said organizers have captured the right atmosphere over at the Kaja Cultural Center. She knows what she is talking about as Heinpalu moved to Mustamäe in 1965 when it was still a part of the farms of the wealthy Kadaka Village.

When people come up and tell me that the kitchen, bathroom and toiler are bigger than they really are, this has been done intentionally as we want people to have room to move about. But they have done very well overall," Heinpalu said.

The creators have gone to considerable lengths to make sure the apartment also smells like it should. With the smell of sprats wafting from the kitchen, those in the bathroom can get a whiff of strawberry soap from the sixties.

The exhibit is open now, with guided tours offered starting in the summer.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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