Club Red

Club Red: Vacation Travel and the Soviet Dream

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 328
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    Club Red
    Book Description:

    The Bolsheviks took power in Russia 1917 armed with an ideology centered on the power of the worker. From the beginning, however, Soviet leaders also realized the need for rest and leisure within the new proletarian society and over subsequent decades struggled to reconcile the concept of leisure with the doctrine of communism, addressing such fundamental concerns as what the purpose of leisure should be in a workers' state and how socialist vacations should differ from those enjoyed by the capitalist bourgeoisie.

    In Club Red, Diane P. Koenker offers a sweeping and insightful history of Soviet vacationing and tourism from the Revolution through perestroika. She shows that from the outset, the regime insisted that the value of tourism and vacation time was strictly utilitarian. Throughout the 1920s and '30s, the emphasis was on providing the workers access to the "repair shops" of the nation's sanatoria or to the invigorating journeys by foot, bicycle, skis, or horseback that were the stuff of "proletarian tourism." Both the sedentary vacation and tourism were part of the regime's effort to transform the poor and often illiterate citizenry into new Soviet men and women.

    Koenker emphasizes a distinctive blend of purpose and pleasure in Soviet vacation policy and practice and explores a fundamental paradox: a state committed to the idea of the collective found itself promoting a vacation policy that increasingly encouraged and then had to respond to individual autonomy and selfhood. The history of Soviet tourism and vacations tells a story of freely chosen mobility that was enabled and subsidized by the state. While Koenker focuses primarily on Soviet domestic vacation travel, she also notes the decisive impact of travel abroad (mostly to other socialist countries), which shaped new worldviews, created new consumer desires, and transformed Soviet vacation practices.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6773-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Vacations, Tourism, and the Paradoxes of Soviet Culture
    (pp. 1-11)

    In November 1966, leading Soviet personalities described their ideal vacations for a feature in a central newspaper. The economist Abel Aganbegian, who would become one of the architects of perestroika, wrote about rafting down the rivers of Siberia as a strenuous but restorative encounter with wild nature. The poet Rimma Kazakova lamented that people of her generation (although she was born in 1932, the same year as Aganbegian) did not really know how to vacation: you have to learn how to do it, she wrote, whether relaxing on the beach or skiing through the woods on a winter’s day. S....

  6. chapter one Mending the Human Motor
    (pp. 12-52)

    Materialist and Marxist, the Soviet Union subscribed to the labor theory of value, privileging work as the foundation of personal worth and as the path toward a society of abundance for all. Work—physical or mental—was the obligation of all citizens. Work ennobled; it was mankind’s highest calling. But work took its toll on the human organism, and along with creating the necessary conditions for productive labor, a socialist system would also include productive rest as an integral element of its economy. The eight-hour workday, a weekly day off from work, and an annual vacation constituted the trinity of...

  7. chapter two Proletarian Tourism: The Best Form of Rest
    (pp. 53-88)

    The classic Soviet vacation that took form by the end of the 1930s combined rest, recuperation, and medical attention. Modeled on the nineteenth-century Western practice of the leisure spa, the Soviet kurort demonstrated the superiority of socialism by providing access to this healing annual rest to the previously disenfranchised proletariat, at least in principle. Western practice had also produced the exemplary modern tourist, the self-actualizing individual who found satisfaction in encountering new places, landscapes, people, and adventure. In the Soviet Union, tourism as a distinctive type of vacation emerged separately from the spa-centered vacation, but it shared with all Soviet...

  8. chapter three The Proletarian Tourist in the 1930s: Seeking the Good Life on the Road
    (pp. 89-127)

    The relationship of socialism to the good life constitutes one of the fundamental problems in interpreting the history of the Soviet Union. The crash industrialization program launched in 1928 under the name of the first five-year plan aspired to produce an economy of plenty but to what end? The need for military defense certainly dominated these planning considerations, but so did the idea that socialism rather than capitalism could permit a poor country like the USSR to catch up to the West and to share in the good life already enjoyed by capitalist bourgeoisies. This life emphasized material comfort, even...

  9. chapter four Restoring Vacations after the War
    (pp. 128-166)

    In 1940, as war engulfed Western Europe, the Soviet press lauded the new comforts available to Soviet tourists and vacationers. While Europe burned, Soviet citizens could select a cruise on the Adzhariia along the Black Sea coast or take a seat in an open touring car for a breathtaking ride through the Caucasus Mountains. The network of sanatoria, rest homes, and tourist bases continued to expand, and opportunities for vacations away from home became available to more citizens than ever before. The geography of Soviet tourism also expanded signifi cantly, as the forcible annexation of western territories brought new destinations...

  10. chapter five From Treatment to Vacation: The Post-Stalin Consumer Regime
    (pp. 167-209)

    By 1967 the resort town of Sochi represented the epitome of the Soviet spa vacation. It featured coastline and beaches, the dramatic backdrop of the Caucasus mountain range, subtropical vegetation, and a mild climate the year around. The healing springs of Matsesta were renowned throughout the Soviet Union and abroad. Sochi was home to twenty-one trade union sanatoria, an unreported number of closed Communist Party sanatoria and rest homes, tourist bases, and an increasing number of “creative retreats” for artists and intellectuals.¹ The best sanatoria here served the cream of Soviet society: Stalin vacationed at his dacha in Sochi from...

  11. chapter six Post-proletarian Tourism: The New Soviet Person Takes to the Road
    (pp. 210-261)

    When Komsomol’skaia pravda surveyed its readers in 1966 about what kind of vacation they preferred, the polling specialists were surprised to learn that 72 percent of the respondents favored an “Oneginesque” vacation, traveling from one place to another. One reader, a mechanic from Ul’ianovsk, wrote, “Of all the types of rest, I consider tourism to be the most valuable. Its merits are indisputable. You are completely free to choose your place of vacation and the method. Even ‘wild’ resort vacationers cannot boast of such advantages.” A Khar’kov engineer concurred: tourism provided the most valuable form of vacation.¹ In espousing the...

  12. chapter seven The Modernization of Soviet Tourism
    (pp. 262-279)

    In 1978 the trade union chief Aleksei Abukov described the three stages of Soviet tourism. The first stage, from the 1920s to 1936, saw the birth and development of a voluntary movement of enthusiasts. As a movement, he wrote, it did not correspond to the growing expectations of Soviet citizens for purposeful and pleasurable leisure travel, and so the responsibility for tourism passed in 1936 to the Central Trade Union Council. This organization understood tourism as a social benefit, expanding tourist opportunities in the 1950s and 1960s, until the demand for destinations and the complexity of services outstripped the trade...

  13. Conclusion: Soviet Vacations and the Modern World
    (pp. 280-286)

    Interwar Europe saw the rise of “social tourism,” a particular vacation category introduced in 1936 when the International Labor Organization adopted the Holiday with Pay Convention (Convention No. 52).¹ Social tourism aimed to provide inexpensive and purposeful vacations for all social classes, but it implicitly privileged the working class, which could not otherwise afford to engage in leisure travel. In 1936 Popular Front France enacted the Lagrange Law, which provided for discounted transportation to vacation destinations, and a network of social tourism institutions developed, emphasizing collectivism, purpose, and politics. Among them, the Family Vacation Villages carried the flag of social...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 287-298)
  15. Index
    (pp. 299-308)