The Socialist Car
Automobility in the Eastern Bloc
Publication Year: 2011
Across the Soviet Bloc, from the 1960s until the collapse of communism, the automobile exemplified the tension between the ideological imperatives of political authorities and the aspirations of ordinary citizens. For the latter, the automobile was the ticket to personal freedom and a piece of the imagined consumer paradise of the West. For the authorities, the personal car was a private, mobile space that challenged the most basic assumptions of the collectivity. The "socialist car"-and the car culture that built up around it-was the result of an always unstable compromise between official ideology, available resources, and the desires of an increasingly restless citizenry. In The Socialist Car, eleven scholars from Europe and North America explore in vivid detail the interface between the motorcar and the state socialist countries of Eastern Europe, including the USSR.
In addition to the metal, glass, upholstery, and plastic from which the Ladas, Dacias, Trabants, and other still extant but aging models were fabricated, the socialist car embodied East Europeans' longings and compromises, hopes and disappointments. The socialist car represented both aspirations of overcoming the technological gap between the capitalist first and socialist second worlds and dreams of enhancing personal mobility and status. Certain features of automobility-shortages and privileges, waiting lists and lack of readily available credit, the inadequacy of streets and highways-prevailed across the Soviet Bloc. In this collective history, the authors put aside both ridicule and nostalgia in the interest of trying to understand the socialist car in its own context.
Published by: Cornell University Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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... 3. Alternative Modernity? Everyday Practices of Elite Mobility 6. On the Streets of a Truck-Building City: Naberezhnye Chelny 9. Autobasteln: Modifying, Maintaining, and Repairing Private ...
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... The Socialist Car was put into gear thanks to the willingness of the Berliner Kol-leg für Vergleichende Geschichte Europas (BKVGE) at the Freie Universität Berlin and its managing director, Dr. Arnd Bauerkämper, to host the conference from which this book emanated. Luminita Gatejel, then a graduate student at BKVGE, deserves special acknowledgment and thanks for having served as local organizer. ...
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In March 1992, less than a year after Communism fell in Albania, Henry Kamm of the New York Times traveled to Noj, a “dirt-poor village” north of the capital, Ti-rana. There he encountered “shattered buildings, piles of rubble,” and other signs of the wave of vengeful destructiveness that had swept through the village months earlier. “They felt they were destroying Communism,” a young shopkeeper told ...
Part OneSOCIALIST CARS ANDSYSTEMS OF PRODUCTION,DISTRIBUTION, ANDCONSUMPTION
1THE ELUSIVE PEOPLE’S CAR
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In Czechoslovakia the automobile was not born socialist. After February 1948 the technicians who were involved in the development of the automobile industry had to take into account, on the one hand, the well-established productive practices that were the result of the complex, multilayered industrial history of Czecho-slovakia and, on the other hand, the American model of mass production that at ...
2CARS AS FAVORS INPEOPLE’S POLAND
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Works on the functioning of centrally planned economies have proved that allo-cations of both investment and consumption resources often occurred in chaotic ways. Historians have already demonstrated that distributive decisions were often uninformed, made on the basis of common sense, precedents from the past, or intuition and not in accordance with scientifi c methods of planning. It has also ...
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This chapter addresses the failure of the state socialist social order to assert its systemic exceptionalism (a pattern of development distinguishing socialism from capitalism) in the fi eld of modern mobility. 1 The Hungarian experience was that the infrastructure serving collective transportation and the latter’s contribution to the aggregate performance of personal transport failed to keep pace with the ...
Part TwoMOBILITY AND SOCIALIST CITIES
714PLANNING FOR MOBILITY
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The international dream of free-fl owing traffi c circulating through the city organ-ism and of individual mobility as a sign of progress has had a powerful impact on urban planning ever since the 1950s and 1960s. Traffi c planning was given high priority in the (re)defi nition of urban structures on both sides of the Iron Curtain. The shared agenda of an international expert community on how to design urban ...
AUTOMOBILITY IN YUGOSLAVIABETWEEN URBAN PLANNER, MARKET,AND MOTORIST
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In the recent fl ourishing of scholarship on cars and automobility around the world, a few key concepts have crystallized. Two are of direct relevance to the task of developing the history of automobility in European socialist states. The fi rst is that the second half of the twentieth century has witnessed the emergence of a “globalizing car system,” a product of postwar economic trends in which Fordist ...
ON THE STREETS OF ATRUCK-BUILDING CITY
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...“All roads lead to KamAZ!” So proclaimed the newspapers in the 1970s as they sought to mobilize people for the large-scale project on the banks of the Kama. The truck factory KamAZ (Kamskii Avotmobil'nyi Zavod—Kama Automotive Factory) and the new city of Naberezhnye Chelny were one of the major projects of the Brezhnev era. Naberezhnye Chelny was renamed Brezhnev after the death in ...
UNDERSTANDING A CAR INTHE CONTEXT OF A SYSTEM
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The Trabant is probably the most potent symbol of Ostalgie —that wave of longing for the return of certain aspects of the GDR that swept former East Germans and even West Germans in the two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Before 1989, the Trabant, with its two-stroke engine, plastic fi berglass body, and terrible quality, was for many West Germans, and Westerners in general, the most potent symbol ...
Part ThreeSOCIALIST CAR CULTURESAND AUTOMOBILITY
THE COMMON HERITAGE OFTHE SOCIALIST CAR CULTURE
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What seems to have survived the dissolution of the former Eastern Bloc with re-gard to cars is either their proverbial bad reputation or a nostalgic patina retroac-tively added to them. This chapter challenges these two dominant perspectives on Socialist Cars, one belonging to the Cold War context and the other to post-1989 Communist nostalgia. I aim to tease out the characteristic features of a so-called ...
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The author thanks Lewis Siegelbaum for revising and correcting this chapter and the participants in the Berlin conference for their ideas in response to my presentation.The topic of working on automobiles by users in the socialist GDR could be tack-led with different methods and perspectives. It could be written as a political and social history of consumers in nonconsumerist economies, as a story of subjective ...
10“LITTLE TSARS OF THE ROAD”
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When Heinz Lathe and Günther Meierling, two German ex-POWs who returned to Soviet Russia in 1958, drove south from Moscow in their diesel-powered Mer-cedes, they passed long lines of trucks but met their fi rst car only after they had traveled forty-three kilometers (twenty-seven miles). Their experience was not unique. “We met a number of lorries, but saw few cars,” wrote the British journal-...
WOMEN AND CARS IN SOVIETAND RUSSIAN SOCIETY
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What is the goal in studying marginalia such as Russian women and their rela-tionship to cars? What insight can it offer us, given the fact that cars remained a minority phenomenon in the Soviet Union and that women so rarely sat behind the wheel that they were practically an endangered species? What is the result of thinking about cars in connection with women and society—that is, when ques-...
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...1. Henry Kamm, “Noj Journal; Just Smashing Communism (Got Carried Away),” New York Times, April 1, 1992, http://query.nytimes.com/search/sitesearch?query=Noj+Journal&srchst=cse; Jane Per-lez, “Albania’s Auto Industry: Dealing in Stolen Cars,” New York Times, August 16, 1997, http://www.nytimes.com/1997/08/16/world/albania-s-auto-industry-dealing-in-stolen-cars.htm (accessed Janu-2. With its ever-dwindling stock of vintage American cars sharing road and garage space with ...
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
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ELKE BEYER teaches at the Institute for History and Theory of Architecture at the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH Zürich), where she is currently writing her dissertation on the planning of city centers in the Soviet Union in the 1960s. VALENTINA FAVA, PhD, is a researcher at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies and teaches at the Department of Social Science History of the University ...
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Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2011