Spartakiads

The Politics and Aesthetics of Physical Culture in Communist Czechoslovakia

Petr Roubal

Spartakiads

Petr Roubal

Distributed for Karolinum Press, Charles University

Translated by Dan Morgan
350 pages | 14 color plates, 35 halftones | 6 x 8 | © 2018
Paper $23.00 ISBN: 9788024638515 Will Publish May 2019 Not for sale in the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic
Every five years from 1955 to 1985, mass Czechoslovak gymnastic demonstrations and sporting parades called Spartakiads were held to mark the 1945 liberation of Czechoslovakia. Featuring hundreds of thousands of male and female performers of all ages and held in the world’s largest stadium—a space built expressly for this purpose—the synchronized and unified movements of the Czech citizenry embodied, quite literally, the idealized Socialist people: a powerful yet pliant force directed by the regime.

In this book, Petr Roubal explores the political, social, and aesthetical dimensions of these mass physical demonstrations, with a particular focus on their roots in the völkisch nationalism of the German Turner movement and the Czech Sokol gymnastic tradition. Roubal draws on extensive interviews and archival research to investigate the many facets of this sporting tradition, from the reactions of ordinary, non-political gymnasts who appropriated and challenged official rituals to the organizational demands of the Spartakiads, such as the incredible finances involved and the knowledge and skills required from hundreds of former Sokol officials. Featuring an abundance of archival photographs, Spartakiad takes a new approach to Communist history by opening a window onto the mentality and mundanity behind the Iron Curtain.
Review Quotes
Jan Lukavec | Iliteratura, on the Czech edition
“In this immensely readable book, the author combines theoretical reflections on the metamorphosis of gender, carnival culture, and transition rituals with detailed research on subjects like the effect mass exercise had on Czechoslovak birth rates.”
Leona Tomášková | Klub Knihomolu, on the Czech edition
“In addition to the interesting information, this engaging read has its fair share of humor.”
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