A guide to the New East
Photography

Dorm life: glimpse inside the best and worst student digs in Moscow

  • Fullscreen

    Karina and Liza are taking admission tests for Moscow State Academic Art. If they are accepted, they will move into a shared room

  • Fullscreen

    Kudakwashe Ndlovu, a 25-year-old student from Zimbabwe, pays only $10 a month for his room

  • Fullscreen

    Issac Ismaila, a student from Nigeria, stands between the two stoves of his floor’s communal kitchen

  • Fullscreen

    “Honestly, I don’t like anything about this place because the rooms are full of roaches and bed bugs,” says Nigerian student Christopher Onoja (top)

  • Fullscreen

    “I don’t have a problem living with roommates but I would like to get my own place someday,” said 26-year-old Dinara Vafina

  • Fullscreen

    Zalkar Toktogulov, a 24-year-old from Kyrgyzstan, studies painting

  • Fullscreen

    Kyrgyz student Zalkar Toktogulov studies painting but spends lots of time in the gym

  • Fullscreen

    Gegham Poghosyan, a student of Moscow’s Surikov Art Institute, puts the finishing touches on his diploma work ​​

  • Fullscreen

    Inese Manguse, who studies at Moscow’s Surikov Art Institute, rests the room she shares with as fellow student

  • Fullscreen

    Liza, who comes from Ulyanovsk, is taking admission tests Moscow’s Surikov Art Institute

  • Fullscreen

    Inese Manguse, 24, playing the guitar in her shared room

  • Fullscreen

    Kudakwashe Ndlova, a 25-year-old student from Zimbabwe, drinks tea in a room he shares with a Russian student

  • Fullscreen

    Students living on the same floor often share one kitchen. This obshaga belongs to the Moscow State Pedagogical University

  • Fullscreen

    The view from an obshaga belonging to the Higher School of Economics located in Odintsovo, west of Moscow

Share on LinkedIn Share via Email

Living in student halls is a rite of passage for any school-leaver embarking on university life. For many Russians an obshaga, which translates as simply "living together", is something closer to a second home. As Pascal Dumont came to discover, some Russians can spend up to ten years of their lives there. “This is where they build relationships, start projects, hold parties and make unforgettable memories. This unique experience shapes their future,” Dumont describes. The Canadian photographer first had the opportunity to stay in an obshaga for five months in 2011, while on a hitchhiking trip around the world. Since moving to Moscow three years ago, where he is currently the multimedia editor of The Moscow Times, he’s been photographing different university dorms in the city. The obshagas pictured include those at Moscow State University — one of Stalin's Seven Sisters —, and the Surikov Moscow State Academy Art, which offers a unique view of the Kremlin from its 10th floor. “I am fascinated by how students adapted to the dormitory's rules, how they managed to slip out night, have a relationships, smoke, drink and do other forbidden things. Small gifts to the obshaga security can compensate for missed curfews. A student once told me he would lift his girlfriend through the window of his second-floor room every night,” the photographer reveals. His photos also give a glimpse into how students adapt such a confined space: from buying fresh flowers to installing makeshift gyms. “Staircases or balconies are prime spots for smoking. In Tomsk, Vietnamese students had set up Internet across the whole building and were running the show. At the Surikov Institute, everyone helped out and contributed to building a communal gym,” Dumont recalls.  

More from Photography

Heading east

One photographer’s wild 15,000km ride from Scotland to Mongolia

Ones to watch

The New East artists taking over UK's biggest photography event

Ekaterina

Does Romain Mader’s satire on sex tourism in Ukraine do more harm than good?

Combat champions

Inside the bloody world of MMA in the North Caucasus

New East 100

Meet the people, places and projects shaping our world today

Red nostalgia

Meet the Georgians who still worship Stalin

Comments