In 1978, one year after the creation of Charter '77, Vaclav Havel wrote his famous essay, "The Power of the Powerless." In it he argued that the countries of the East Bloc were under the rule of post-totalitarian regimes that appealed to popular desires for consumer goods, in order to secure domination over their populations. Indeed, these governments did make consumerist appeals. But they….
Pollution from the Black Triangle was a tremendous source of water and air pollution in Eastern Europe, but it was not the only source. Heating systems that relied on coal power, and cars using leaded gas and lacking catalytic converters added to this immense problem, which especially plagued larger cities, including Prague.
Initially, the Czechoslovak Communist….
Nestled in the very heart of Central Europe is a region that has come to be known as the Black Triangle. It contains land surrounding where the borders of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and East Germany meet. This large tri-state area is rich with natural resources, including lignite, iron ores, and uranium. Lignite is soft coal and is found close to the earth's surface, so it is easy to mine simply….
Following World War II, the peoples of Eastern Europe not only had increased access to affordable, hygienic housing, they also had improved access to health care. Still, like the new housing opportunities, the new health care offerings were limited in quantity and quality, and other everyday life changes conspired to test their efficacy. In the first years of Communist rule, the health of East….
Alcohol and cigarette consumption were very regular parts of everyday life for great numbers of Eastern Europeans, including youth, during the Cold War era. In fact, these countries had some of the highest alcoholism rates in the world and a very large percentage of the population smoked. Recreational drug addiction was not as prevalent as it was in the West, largely due to government efforts….
The history of music, including rock, punk and heavy metal, forms a fascinating chapter in the history of everyday life in Cold War Eastern Europe. Among the many bands that formed during the three decades before 1989, perhaps none is better known than the Plastic People of the Universe of Czechoslovakia. The group's anti-Communist lyrics led it to be declared illegal. Persecution ranged from….
In Communist Eastern Europe much propaganda was directed toward young people, who party leaders correctly viewed as forces important for the future of the state. This propaganda was filled with messages about the Communist Party's benevolent protection of workers' interests and the evils of Western capitalism. These messages were delivered in schools, where all teachers were required to write….
During the Cold War era an interesting public space called "the house of culture" (or sometimes "the palace of culture") proliferated throughout the East Bloc. Sometimes they existed as free-standing buildings, sometimes as parts of factory complexes, and very often they were buildings within the massive housing settlements were millions of Eastern Europeans awoke and retired to rest each day.….
During the first half of the 20th century shortages of hygienic, affordable housing were common in Eastern Europe. Following World War II, Communist leaders worked to resolve this social problem—one that grew graver as collectivization of agriculture during the 1950s forced millions of people to migrate from the countryside to cities.
Their solution was the construction of massive,….
Rudé Pravo was the Czechoslovak equivalent of the Soviet newspaper Pravda. Both were the official daily news publications of their respective Communist governments; both depicted the official version of truth about current events and conditions. Rudé Pravo had a daily circulation of over one million, a fact attributable not to its popularity but rather to the….
Tuzex, short for Tuzemský export (or domestic export), was a set of special stores in Communist Czechoslovakia. The Communist Party established Tuzex in 1957, in order to draw hard currency from citizens' pockets into the coffers of the state. Hard currency, including American dollars and West German marks, was convertible currency linked to the international gold….
In 1986 the Czechoslovak Communist Central Committee approved its Eighth Five Year Plan since 1948, which stayed in effect, with modifications, until 1990. The plan built upon the East Bloc practices of following the Soviet command-economy model and emphasizing heavy industry over consumer goods. For example, the plan called for industrial output to grow 15.8% for the five year period (roughly….
Upheavals in political, economic, social, and cultural conditions in the 1980s led to many challenges in everyday lives of average citizens of East European countries. Buying such necessities as food, clothing, and hygiene products posed serious difficulties to consumers. Store shelves were frequently empty and lines that took as long as several hours to navigate were common. In this 1982….