Communal Services System

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Communal Services System


the aggregate of enterprises, administrative branches, and units that provide services to the population of cities, settlements, and villages; in the cities the communal services system is a part of the municipal services system. In many cities and settlements the communal enterprises also provide services (including water, electricity, and gas) to industrial enterprises. Depending on local conditions, however, industrial enterprises may have their own water supply, sewerage system, and other similar installations.

The degree of development of the communal services system and the scope of its activity have a direct effect on the level of well-being of the population, on standards of living and sanitaryhygienic conditions, and on the cleanliness of the air and water, as well as on the level of labor productivity.

The communal services system includes the following:

(1) Sanitary engineering enterprises—water supply facilities, sewerage systems, streetcleaning, janitorial and scavenging services, laundries, bath houses, and swimming and bathing facilities;

(2) Transportation enterprises—urban public passenger transportation (subways, streetcars, trolleybuses, funiculars, cableways, buses, and taxis) and local water transportation;

(3) Power enterprises—electricity, gas, and central heating distribution networks, heating boilers, heat and electric power plants and electric power stations, and gas plants supplying populated points.

Among the outside structures necessary in populated points and included in the communal services system are streets and sidewalks, bridges and overpasses, underground and surface traffic junctions and pedestrian crossings and trestles, storm and other drainage installations, shoreline embankments and reinforcements, various hydroengineering structures to prevent flooding, parks and greenbelts, and street lighting.

The communal services system takes in hotels, land-tenure and utility record-keeping services, repair and construction organizations maintaining housing facilities, and cemeteries and crematoriums. The sphere of activity of the communal services system also includes the operation of the housing facilities and municipal enterprises and services in charge of the sanitary improvement of the immediate environs of housing projects. In the USSR, therefore, the housing and communal systems are managed together by municipal bodies and local soviets.

In the capitalist countries the communal services (public utilities) system is of an obvious class character. In many cities, slum areas lacking elementary amenities are found alongside well-organized and well-kept areas. Regardless of whether the municipal enterprises belong to private individuals, companies, joint-stock companies, or municipalities, the services are capitalist enterprises by their nature and serve the interests primarily of the bourgeoisie and large monopolies. In many capitalist countries this is evident in the continuous rise in rates for municipal services and the unplanned construction, based primarily on business considerations, of municipal service structures and networks. The problems of air, soil, and water pollution remain unsolved.

Prerevolutionary Russia did not have a communal services system in the sense of a nationwide system of interrelated enterprises and structures; the populated centers in the country (even the large cities) were marked by a low level of planning and provision of municipal services to the population.

In Soviet times the USSR’s housing and communal services system has become a major sector of the economy, developing intensively on a planned basis and making use of the latest scientific and technical achievements. On Jan. 1, 1972, the fixed assets of the housing and communal and domestic services system were estimated to be 27.7 percent of the value (in 1955 prices) of the entire fixed assets of the country. Plans for development of the communal services system are a constituent part of the consistent economic and social policy of the CPSU and the Soviet government, which is aimed at a continuous rise in the standard of living of the people.

The rate of development of the communal services system is determined by the growth in industrial production and the increase in the size of the urban population.

In the USSR there is no private ownership of land, capitalist home ownership is eliminated, and all communal enterprises and services are concentrated under the management of local soviets and state bodies. Thus it is possible to build housing in large-scale developments on an industrial basis, develop the structures and networks of the communal services system comprehensively, maintain the necessary proportions in the development of particular enterprises and services, ensure cooperation and coordination of the resources and efforts of all involved organizations and enterprises within the framework of a single city-building plan, and reconstruct the cities on a planned basis as the country’s economy develops (including the removal of harmful production facilities and inconveniently situated industrial enterprises).

Between 1966 and 1970 more than 550 cities and workers’ settlements in the country received new water supply and sewerage systems (with the network of water and sewerage systems growing by 40,000 kilometers), more than 13 million apartments were hooked up for gas, and the fleet of rolling stock for urban electrical transportation grew by 19,000 units.

Communal services systems are being developed significantly in all the Union republics. In the RSFSR from 1966 to 1970 the annual delivery of water to customers by communal water supply systems increased by 34 percent (including 130 percent in the rural areas), and the sewerage system discharge increased by 41 percent. Such development made it possible to increase the average daily delivery of drinking water to the population by 13 percent by 1970; water drainage was provided for 75 percent of the population as against 68 percent in 1966. During these same years large-scale communal water supply systems were put into operation in 105 cities in the republic, and municipal sewerage systems were introduced in 95 cities. The overall productivity of communal water supply systems in the Byelorussian SSR increased by more than 60 percent, and the sewerage system discharge grew by 75 percent. The productivity of water supply systems in the cities and settlements of the Kirghiz SSR, the Kazakh SSR, the Uzbek SSR, and the Tadzhik SSR almost doubled. By 1971 more than 93 million inhabitants of the country were using gas for domestic needs. In 1971 alone, 3.4 million apartments were hooked up for gas.

During the ninth five-year plan (1971–75) the task of providing centralized water supply to the urban population was basically accomplished, and the gas systems and the use of electricity for domestic needs was significantly expanded.

Since 1971 work has been under way to design and introduce automated control systems for the housing and communal services systems of the large cities and their separate branches (including automated systems for water supply, gas, urban transportation, and hotel accommodations).

Organizing central heating for cities and communities, switching heat and electric power plants from solid fuel to gas, and developing electrical urban transportation will help keep the air basin clean; steps are also being taken to prevent pollution of rivers and other bodies of water.


Materialy XXIV s”ezda KPSS. Moscow, 1971.
Ekonomika, organizatsiia i planirovanie gorodskogo khoziaistva, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1969.
Klopotov, K. K. Zhilishchno-kommunal’noe khoziaistvo na pod”eme. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.