The Soviet Block : Leisure Society

The citizens of socialist countries of Eastern Central Europe, just like those of the west, had workdays limited to 8 hours a day, weekends off, a salary which (because of subsidized prices for many consumer goods) were able to save some money they could invest in a hobby. In a society which more often than not frustrated creative effort, hobbies provided an outlet for such creative energies.
The socialist administration encouraged the activities of clubs and societies engaging in leisure activities, of which there were many, from stamp collecting, dog breeding, chess playing, choirs, model boat builders to sports clubs. The spectrum offered by these clubs and societies was more or less identical with that available in the west, except those activities which required investment easterners could not afford or equipment unavailable to them; for instance sports such as golf, dressage riding were not pursued, tennis only in Czechoslovakia and Rumania.
The constitution of the USSR even regarded organizations such as the Soviet Federation of Philatelists as that relevant that it was guaranteed a seat in the national assembly.
As creativity and competitiveness were discouraged in the socialist economy, they found an outlet in the world of leisure activity. Clubs such as the GDR Guppy breeding club gained fame far beyond the borders of the country. East Germany published the only catalogue of world stamps printed in a socialist country, LIPSIA; here, also stock books were produced, and exported into the west. Some hobbyists tried to turn their hobby into a profitable business, by producing fishtanks, rowboats etc. in their spare time

Over time, the citizens of the socialist countries had developed expectations regarding their free time similar to those of the west - spending vacations regularly away from home, if possible abroad; of spending a lot of time with their hobby. The major difference was that they were barred from travelling to the west, and that many first-rate products were not available to them.


This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on July 18th 2001, last revised on November 11th 2004

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