Acknowledging that we live, in an increasingly fragmented, superficial, corrupt, and openly dangerous society; tired of reality, where there are guns in schoolyards and con-men in high positions, we long for another life-- more whole, understandable, more accessible, that in which there is a place of warmth, goodness, unity in camaraderie. Our unnatural division is part of the cause.  Engrained in society, in the postwar years is the tendency towards small families and correspondingly, one family residences, the blistering growth of cities, professional mobility, tearing us out of the system of human relations that nourished humans in days past…


D.L. Kristen. We build a communal life

All that we already achieved, but you and I are simply doomed to live with others.  Well yes, the majority of us from birth until death are surrounded by people.  And if there are any kind of periods of solitude, they are the result of the conscious choice of the person (hermit monks for example) or the result of some kind of catastrophe.  And so our whole lives we live around people.  The only nuance is that we can knowingly choose a few parameters: with whom, how and in what quantity to live.  Before everything, I’ve long been interested in the question:  how to live together so that it will be good?  Because I already would very much like to live together.  It is convenient and provides many opportunities.  Of course, I do not advertise this lifestyle as the only possible and ultimate way to live.  No! I have many good friends who like solitude. Some like to live in pairs, so say that it’s better with a family, some lived in a kolkhoz, and some grew up -- and changed their preference.  This is also normal.

And this is why I like ‘together.’  In St. Petersburg and Tyumen I experienced life in the city communes.  I have friends who have lived together for a very long time.  Now in the ecovillage, we explore the theme of rural community.  Analyzing my own experience and the experience of others, I can make some kind of observation.

It seems to me that ‘communism’ (like with other indistinct words, like ‘love’) has a bad reputation, and ‘commune’ -- is word-garbage, in which they’ve tried to dump all forms of communal existence, without boundaries or clarification.  Because of this, pronouncing the word ‘commune’ in vain, we risk causing nervous twitching in a large quantity of people, who would make something communal and burn it.  For this reason it would be good to clarify as possible, the major aspects of this question.  And so…

1.Totalitarian power of the leader or totalitarian power of the community

Many think that communities or communes -- they are the kind of place where there is no power and you can do whatever.  And if questions arise, then begins democracy: ‘Let’s vote!.’  Democracy and openness for all very quickly sends a community down a slope.  In successful projects there is no kind of democracy and openness.

Is this surprising? Allow me to explain.  By the principles of the community’s formation there are, to me, two types.  The first variant, more widespread-- is a commune around a totalitarian leader.  In the commune there is a director who can be, for example, a religious teacher.  He becomes the boss, he can accept someone into the society and can expel.  He is a filter who forms the composition of residents instead of people (although very often it is not obvious from the outside)

In secular conditions it is more often than not the landlord of the apartment or the man, who rents the the living space. The boss takes care of all outside links to the commune, answers questions that arise and is more or less the “face” of the cohabiting citizens.  He establishes rules and follows through to their fulfilment. Almost anyone can live, the main thing is to fulfil the established rules and don’t bother others. As an example of the religious communities of the type that can be discussed is the ‘Osho commune’ in India.  A good example of a secular commune is based in Anton Krotov’s home for all (the internet is full of information on this, there is even an eponymous book of Anton’s ‘House for all’)

Here’s what my comrade Vadim Nazarenko (also one of the well known commune members of the Moscow suburbs) wrote on the subject in his diary:

“Regrettably, my basic role --dictator.  As Anton Krotov said, another commune member, ‘under communism there should be a dictator and a lot of food. ‘  This we already have, that the apartment belongs to me , meaning, I perfectly legitimately can expel any man.  Naturally, I don’t do this but periodically there arise such stagnant moments in relationships where, a good kick is not optional… The people rally against a terrible Leader and do everything together and quickly.  I terribly dislike this role but another way I have not thought of.  Luckily, it happens rarely, usually everything organizes itself-- for example, to pay for the light-gas-water, through the internet we gather and deal with the bank ourselves.”

In St. Petersburg once I lived in some hippie commune, in which the leader died.  Without him the collective sunk into the mire of discord, and then virtually everything died out in the span of a few months. That’s communism for you.

A second variant exists, when totalitarian power manifests kind of as the community itself and is spelled out in her constitution.  This power generally is not noticeable.  But it is very important. It becomes a guarantee of unity in the community.  In this variant not everyone falls into the community.   There is a strict established procedure for accepting new members (indispensable!), which includes a trial period, an application with questions, and many other stages.  There also are clearly written values, which unite every member of the community.  And if in the first variant it’s only necessary that the boss of the commune likes you, then in this, in order to stay, the large majority of people must like you + share all the prescribed values and rules.

We have incidentally precedents, where people, having read Kropotkin, come to the village and establish themselves in defence of communism. They say, we have no commune!

· Is it a collective house?

· Collective, but not for everyone.

· Is it a collective bathroom?

· Yes but we decide for whom it is collective.

· Go ahead, let’s decide.

· Yeah we already decided.

Apparently, we don’t understand anything about communities.  Yes, that’s so.  But we have a good understanding of our community, end of story.  And in it there is no democracy...more like so:  In order to vote and make suggestions, you have to work more.  And to go visiting -- it’s possible.  It’s just necessary to discuss intentions ahead of time.


2.   A steady community is a clear community

It matters not, whether there is a leader in a community or not, it’s necessary to write down the rules of the game.  Clearly.  Then there will be less questions and conflicts diminish.

First you have to understand, around what do we gather?  What unifies us?  And to understand it’s necessary to be very detailed and concrete.  And to write it out on paper.  And then, all the participants in the community must sign underneath.  Without this very important matter, the collective can disintegrate very quickly.

There is a noteworthy book by Diana Leafe Christian “Creating a LIfe Together”).  There she delineated three important pieces, which are necessary to spell out: “Vision,” “Mission,” and “Goals.”  This should be done as early as possible.  Vision-- it’s a very high level generalization, which can be sketched out following this format: “In what kind of world do we want to live,” “what world inspires us?” “WHY do we do what we do?.”

Mission -- this is WHAT we do together so that we can work towards that world which impresses us.

And goals -- this is HOW we do that which unites us .  From details-- to Diana.  In her book she has everything well delineated.  I don’t fully agree with her terminology, but I think that is a result of the translation.  


Mission -- in the name of what
Identity -- who
Values, сonvictions -- Why? For what?
Abilities -- how?
Behaviour -- What to do?
Environment --who? where? When?

Working out a mission, vision, and goals is one way of bringing clarity to a community.  But it’s a small step.  It’s necessary to structure and prescribe “rules of the game” to a society.  And this task is quite extensive.  In order to not get one’s wires crossed, I recommend you take advantage of the so-called logical levels of Robert Dilts.

Logical levels (LL)-- these are an internal hierarchy, in which each subsequent level is psychologically broader and offers more activity.
It’s convenient to present LL in a pyramidal form.
The peak -- mission.  In the name of what do we gather?  What inspires us?
The next level -- identity :  Who are we?  What kind of community are we?

Third step in the pyramid -- out values and key convictions. What is important to us? What is valuable to us?

Then comes abilities or strategies: this can be the strategy for accepting a decision, the procedure of accepting new members, the ways to solve conflict, financial strategies, etc.

The fifth level -- behaviors. What do we do in our community.  On holidays, on weekdays?  How do we organize trash, how do we go shopping?  How to decide the question of community service?  And so on.

And lastly, surrounding environment (surroundings) -- the material base.  What do we have?  What kind of land? What kind of house?  What kind of clothes and shampoo?

The idea is simple: we move from general questions to specifics.  Or the opposite.


Dilts’s pyramid of logical levels is a very good instrument for systemic analysis and so on.  As a result, you get a document, in which all is very clearly delineated and from all sides.

We, for example, have rules, written in legal language, and we also have those rules but in a simpler language.  This allows us to make a basic agreement understandable to all. In a few places in the rules they can be expanded, change with the passing of time.  In order to not rewrite the rules every time, we agreed that the generic document can be edited by the protocols of the decision-making committee of the village.  In this way, we get a very dynamic, precedent-setting system.  Nothing before was recorded.  Nothing was foreseen. But as long as the rule of the community is a living process, we can collect advice from the village and decide: Maybe our agreements demand a lookover?

For advanced users and those interested in the system of thought Dilts has another cube.  It consists of the six layers of the logical levels, adding another two measures: time (past present, and future) and position of perception (first position- when we look at the world through our own eyes, second -- when we look around through another’s eyes and the third position of perception is the function of a videocamera: we simply bear witness to everything that happened without judgement).  As such, in place of six levels, we get 54 ways of looking at events.

For example, values, present time, first position: “Now our values are hardiness, harmony with the environment, and harmony in relationships with people.”   

If you look at the values of our village from the point of view of locals, you get a different sector (values, present time, second position) and here is the formula: “We want a quieter way of life than in the city: we will grow food ourselves, we depend on no one, we will breathe the clean air, yes and in order to be in good company”

Try to play the game, play around with the cube, you can learn a lot of new information about yourself and your “kolkhoz.”

[past, present, future,] [mission, identity, values, strategies, behavior, environment] [1,2,3, position of perception]

3. Community of families or individuals

Communities exist in different varieties.  Family (this is like the majority of modern ecovillages) and a community of individuals (for example, diverse eco companies or hippie activists).  There’s a suspicion that these two types function under different principles.  And attempts to combine the two lead to the rise of different working classes and ideological discord.  Precisely because of this, in the rules of some family villages there are rules written forbidding admission of single citizens into the village.  There is something to be said for this although we, for example, do not have such a rule.  So the matter is individual, but the differences should be remembered.  And maybe, you should immediately decide, what kind of community you are creating.

4. Balance between community and self

A community is a group of people who have something in common: maybe ideological, maybe material.  When we say ‘commune,’ a theatrical image emerges in many people’s minds, of Swedish hippie-families, where everything is communal: wives, children, houses, food… It’s probably like this somewhere, but it is determined by everyone individually.  And deciding is very important.  People in a community (commune) might live together (communal home) or they might build their own homes, they can own communal land (like in ecovillages), or they can split it in parts.  They can eat together, or each can cook for themselves, they can conduct general finances, or they can not, they can take on a single religion, or believe whatever they choose.

To decide what is permissible to you, it’s good to think through these moments, confirm and write out in the laws -- it’s very important. So that all people have an about equal understanding of the position of things: here we have the collective, here is our own.

It’s important, to have balance between a personal and collective. If everything were personal it wouldn’t be a community, if everything was collective then it wouldn’t realize the demand of humanity for personal space.

Knowledge of how to live in communities is based in the knowledge of how to save your own space, ‘to be alone’ and spend your time doing what you please in the presence of different people and in good relationships with them.  On the other hand, knowledge of how to live in a community is a preparedness to do communal tasks work on community space assuming that there is more than your personal matters.  And both these parts of the process are accurate.

5. Variety in place of monotony

Community is always varied.  Even if we unite in the name of some kind of collective goal.  One goal, varied people.  An allegedly understandable thing, but at times we forget. Especially at the start of a collective path, in the romantic-dreaming stage many inspired commune members can appear very similar to each other or even, that we’re a single unit! But then it will begin to unfold that, besides us being ‘united’ we’re all different.  Everyone has their own peculiarities.  Everyone has their own oddities and idiosyncrasies.  And they may show up unexpectedly.  And you think: well if everyone were to be like me-- great!  But no.  Here it’s necessary to learn how to compromise, it’s necessary to learn how to accept and love, it’s necessary to work together.  And if we succeed,  the community becomes even stronger, and at the same time, diverse, as would be unexpected for it to seem -- this is very good, it adds stability.  This helps to develop and grow.  Polyculture is more reliable than a monoculture, although trickier, although it demands more conscientiousness.  A community is always a polyculture, and it’s important to remember this.

6. Adequate amount of information about each other

In the collective lifestyle there arises the illusion, that we know everything about each other.  That we hardly need to speak, everything is that understood.  But at the same time, this is a huge mistake.  Discussion is necessary.  Because in one moment it may seem that our perceptions of each other already don’t match reality.  You know, it’s like syncing watches: suddenly someone’s watch has already run ahead and someone’s is behind.  Sincere discussion-clarification-syncing watches should take place in every community ( of any size from 2-x people), if it’s desirable for all to be happy and lively.

Long ago, when I still studied at the Gestalt Institute,  we had a lecture on conflictology: “Strategy of Gestalt therapy on resolving conflict.’  My whole life I will remember this lecture.  It was the shortest and the most concise:

-And so, in conflict conditions it’s necessary to return people to awareness! That’s it, - said the professor - End of lesson.

-And how do you return them?- students began to fret…

-A very simple question:  ‘And what happens now’

This question helps to create pause, to dissociate from emotions (especially destructive ones) and to acknowledge actual information on the events.

In actuality, the majority of conflicts (maybe even 100%) occur as a result of a lack of information about each other, when we start to live in an engineered world, contrary to the information that we get from our senses.  Without real living society we invent things about our neighbor; this fabrication we develop, read into, add details.  At the same time our neighbor also invents and imagines.  Ta da!  A recipe for conflict.   To avoid conflict it is necessary to ask the questions: ‘And what happens now?  Is it true of the person, or did I make it up?  Does he really think this way or did I imagine it? Am I really angry at him or am I just having a bad day?’ This practice of clarification is to me, is one of the most important in any communal life.

In our village this process is called ‘co-adjustment’.  I also encountered the format under the title ‘Circle of hearts’-- which seemed to me something from hippie-history…The titles may be different.  The formats also.  You can experiment infinitely, the main point is that the idea of clarification remains: correct the malfunctions in relationships so that people in the community have more information about each other.

7. Unconditionally good relationships with each other

Petra Mamonova has a good song, although, you know, the title of it is difficult...there is too much idiosyncratic creativity in Petra Nikolayevna.  I will call it thus: ‘Composition.’  It’s titled ‘All are bastards.’  The lyrics are roughly such, ‘All are bastards, no one does me, tender and wonderful, love.   Only I am good, I know how to use practically everyone,’ and so on.  In the same spirit.  The song is good because it reveals our internal dialogue which arises before some kind of insult, before depression if we have some kind of difficulty in society...It shows...yes it exaggerates it to the extent where it becomes funny and meaningless.

In order to live together (you probably won’t achieve good relations between everyone, for this reason I look over the situation, when we already went through the selection procedure and have become members of the community) it’s necessary to unconditionally be good to one another.  And supposing that doesn’t happen it’s better together than just not living.  I repeat again the timeless ‘Love thy neighbor.’ It’s simpler to love those far away. But your neighbor is a challenge.  But it’s vital.  The idea that people are fundamentally good is very helpful.  Although their actions may be flawed.  Actions can be judged.  People can’t be especially when we knowingly choose to live with them.

8. Balance between internal and external

An important part in ‘life in a commune’ is finding a balance in relations with the outside world.  It’s our feeling that constructing a successful community in isolation is very difficult.  Creating a community is also setting up relationships with people who are outside of the commune.  

There exist communities in which the border of ‘Us’---- ‘Them’ is very strong.  This happens for example in all kinds of religious organizations. I tell everyone the tale, that I once visited a Mormon church with a friend on some kind of holiday.  There the preacher during his sermons always accentuated our division.  ‘My dear brothers and sisters and (here he paused and looked at us) guests.’  In the synagogue, during the days of the Holocaust, I’ve heard that rabbis offer to pray for any relative who suffered during the genocide, but clearly emphasizing that they be Jewish.  There is a very strong divide between ‘Jewish’---- ‘not-Jewish’.  In Old-Believer churches the grandfather who comes to leave a candle for his dead and departed spouse, strict grandmothers inquire, how many fingers the deceased used to cross herself.  There, after more than 350 years there is a clear strengthening of the divide between ‘old father’s beliefs’ --- ‘Nikonian heresy’.

I know that in secular societies they usually believe in their own exclusiveness, intelligence and knowledge of the true path.  Whereby no one, save the few members of the group, can be exclusive, intelligent, and know that path to truth.  Naturally, they have larger challenges in society with all around on every level.  But that is their choice and path.

And so in every community it is important to define the strategy for interacting with everyone who is not entering the group.  To what extent is it open to society?  How to interact with representatives of power, with locals, how to create chemistry with similar projects if they exist and so on.

9.  Community --- it’s a process

I already wrote about this in the second point, but because the topic is important let’s bring it up in it’s own right.  The construction of a community is very lengthy, with many stages and forever.  Meaning it’s a never-ending process.  Any kind of relationship: with yourself, between spouses and children in a family, people in a community and also between members of a microcommunity and everyone outside (macrocommunity) -- it’s a process.  And this means that you can never say that something is certain.

Relationship-- it’s not a noun, it’s a verb.  And you cannot once and for all decide that a relationship is complete.  Completed relationships are dead relationships.  And living relationships are those in which you save communication.  What does this mean?  Before everything, however much we bargain, however much we try to fix something in a group of people, all the same there will constantly be something to renew, redo, clarify.  However much we try to make from a group of people an ‘item’, all the same we won’t succeed.  A community is always ‘active.’  And if today we all in a medley have a good discussion, it’s very likely that tomorrow we’ll discuss it anew…. Or maybe separate.  Yes, it’s necessary to remember this too.  A community, like any other process, has a start, it’s developmental stage, and then, at it’s time it comes to an end.  And how else?

Community activity can go somewhere we didn’t want it to, as a system it can break, as a living organism it can become sick ( for example catch the viruses of dissociation), and then it’s necessary to correct, repair and heal - with the help of those who are clearheaded and non-delusional.  Again we bring in the self-awareness: ‘Now what happens with us?’

The signs of a healthy community to me personally are simplicity and a feeling of safety.  When you can go up to any person in the commune and tell them everything that you want to say.  Without danger of stepping into a long investigation of relationships and infighting.  And when you can visit any person in your environment and drink tea with them. And you know that they’re not looking at you askance.  And if they don’t want to speak with you they can talk to you about it calmly speak without ornate rituals, lies and euphemisms.  Because in healthy communication you can say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’

10. Maturation of a community

Once at the institute we all campaigned to join a trade union.  Well we applied the first time without even asking the question: ‘And for what?’.  Because the organizing community got paid, because they’d take payments from us, that was clear, and what else?  When I understood this I personally left the trade union.  After that I had one other attempt to apply for something similar, but there the question arose: ‘What does it get me?’  An inspired aunt, manager of that society was indignant and said that if I thought better I’d be able to give something to society.  A single fee, obviously, was not much.  We also disintegrated .  A familiar occurrence?  An interesting matter:  In many charter documents, in the rules and agreements we try to spell out what we have to give to the community and what it does. What must we do for our community.  What we don’t have to do for our community.  And even if the mission level has a clearly written goal, even if we pretty much understand what we’re about, it is all up to the moment where the community starts to give something valuable (in all senses) to its participants, and not just take from those who live far from the collective. Because a community for that ought to be mature, formed and flourishing, where it not only demands it can give.  It must allow itself.  In this exists the deepest human function of cohabitant existence of a group of people .  Give people what they cannot get separately.  But in this occurrence there is another side: to any ‘communism’ will freeloaders start to gravitate--people who want to live on other’s tabs, so remember them...

11. Commune (community) -- it’s the highest degree of self-sufficiency

By my observations, all words with the root ‘soc’ and ‘commun’ become magnets for all kinds of infantile citizens, dreaming of gleaning resources without work and investment.  It’s like it’s in some kind of voluntary-compulsory school choir: you, the boss, stand with your mouth open.  And neighbors sing.  The next thing you know: to any community sooner or later non-self-sufficient people will come.  But as long as the community more often than ever builds itself and  develops people who are conscientious and self-sufficient enough, sooner or later these leaders, activists, and organizers start to, step by step, isolate themselves from the remaining useless collective, because nobody wants to always be the donor, mover and source.  There arise resentments, ‘communism’ ends, and the spectacle under the name of ‘internal warfare in a country village’ begins.  From this, in total, all participants in the process begin to suffer.

 It reminds me of a romantic relationship: the happiest pairs are those where all partners are mature, independent, and able to live happily and without a partner. And not those in neurotic relationships, who construct their dreams to have their inadequacies fulfilled by the strong side of another person.  These sick relationships end scandalously, in divorce and dividing property, lengthy court-cases and intrigue.  

If the number of infantile citizens in a community start to grow and reach some kind of critical limit, then in the end it becomes a very large problem.  Such a commune, instead of one that could be thriving and mature, becomes a burden for the full-fledged and working members.

Again, this process is governed by distinct and fastidious procedures for accepting new members, clearly written charters and periodic clarifications and corrections.  And also those, that beginning communists always remember, that their community wants their time, work, resources, attention and care.  And general involvement.  From each according to his abilities.  Then it can develop, grow, flourish, and in total start to give to each according to their needs.

I think that for this book this is enough.  The theme of cohabitation is very extensive, however much I write is not enough.  But I still attempt to establish, about what is the most important to tell…I very much hope that these words help some kind of community.  Even if it’s just a little.