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Title:Sports, Mass Mobilization, and the Everyday Culture of Socialism in East Germany
Author(s):Johnson, Molly Wilkinson
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Peter Fritzsche
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, European
Abstract:This dissertation explores how the communist government of East Germany used sports to build socialism. Sports had traditionally enjoyed widespread popularity in Germany, and communist leaders sought to instrumentalize this popularity towards socialist ends. They believed that sports could produce efficient workers and strong defenders of socialism. They also recognized that sports and sports-related events could draw both athletic and non-athletic citizens into the broader public culture of socialism. This study of the everyday experience of sports---where state goals and citizen interest overlapped---illuminates state-society relations, the successes and limitations of the state's mass mobilization drives, and continuity and change between East Germany and previous German states. The dissertation begins with the reconstruction of sports after World War II. Although the East German government claimed to fulfill German traditions, it in fact suppressed these traditions and imported new Soviet structures for sports. The second chapter looks at sports in everyday life. Sports leaders hoped to mobilize all citizens to play sports, particularly because sports promoted paramilitary ability and work productivity. They organized many programs to draw citizens into sports yet encountered challenges as well as successes. The third chapter explores "voluntary work actions," in which citizens helped build sports stadiums and fund sports festivals. This chapter sheds light on the factors that shaped citizen participation in state-initiated voluntary campaigns. The fourth chapter looks at the highpoint of mass mobilization campaigns, the Gymnastics and Sports Festivals held in Leipzig every year. The state's goal was to use the festivals, particularly the sports shows that stood at their center, to embody unity, synchronicity, and collectivity. Although the festivals involved hundreds of thousands of citizens and were among the most memorable elements of East German public culture, their impact on ordinary East German citizens was both positive and negative. The fifth chapter explores elite sports, focusing on the Friedensfahrt cycling race in the 1950s, to analyze how the state used elite sports to win international prestige, to promote socialist spectatorship, to inspire patriotism, and to cultivate socialist athletic heroes.
Issue Date:2003
Description:249 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2003.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3086091
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2003

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