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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Culture for the People: USSR 1984

Image from Soviet stamp, 1971

From the USSR media in 1984 a look at how Soviet socialism brought culture to the people.

"Citizens of the USSR have the right to enjoy cultural benefits. This right is ensured by broad access to the cultural treasures of their own land and of the world that are preserved in state and other public collections; by the development and fair distribution of cultural and educational institutions throughout the country; by developing television and radio broadcasting and the publishing of books. newspapers and periodicals, and by extending the free library service; and by expanding cultural exchanges with other countries." - Article 46 of the Constitution of the USSR

There are many definitions of the term ’'culture”. When speaking of socialist culture it should be noted that one of its hallmarks is rejection of the division of people into creators and consumers of culture, of any elite and elitism. Socialist culture is not for an elite. It is for all and everyone.

According to UNESCO, the Soviet people are among the most avid readers in the world, The population of the Soviet Union makes up slightly over six per cent of the global population. The share of the USSR in the world’s annual output of books and reading matter in general makes up almost 15 per cent of the world's total.

Books and booklets in the USSR are published in 89 languages of the peoples and nationalities inhabiting the country; note that some 50 peoples and nationalities acquired their own alphabet only in the years of Soviet government. Before the Revolution the output of reading matter per capita per annum averaged 0.6 copies. Today it is 7 copies.

Almost 95 per cent of all Soviet families have their own personal libraries, the number of books in them totaling 30 billion.

In many advanced European states a person who reads at least one book per month is considered a regular reader. In the Soviet Union this designation is attached only to people who read at least two books per month, Almost 80 per cent of the Soviet population read books regularly, 72 per cent read journals and magazines and 90 per cent– newspapers.

A total of 8 thousand newspapers are published in the USSR, their daily circulation exceeding 170 million, and 5 thousand journals and magazines in an annual printing of 3 billion. Every family on average annually takes out a subscription for six periodicals.

The number of all types of libraries in the country (public, scientific, educational, technical and other specialized ones) approaches 330,000. All Soviet citizens are entitled to their free use.

The Soviet Union has accumulated an immense cultural heritage including works of fine art and other historical and artistic relics (over 50 million items in all) which are exhibited in 1,600 museums. Under state protection are over 150,000 items of historical value: relics, architecture and monuments of art.

There are over 600 theatres. 200 and more concert organizations, about 100 circuses and 151,000 cinemas in the USSR, in the number of cultural centres and institutions per 1,000 residents the Soviet Union is far ahead of the advanced capitalist countries. According to UNESCO the USSR leads the world in attendances at such entertainment centres as theatres, museums and cinemas, etc. Ticket prices in the USSR are among the world’s lowest.

Not only professional but also amateur art is encouraged in the USSR in every way. A total of 21 million people (i.e. one in thirteen residents of the country) devote their spare time to amateur art activities they attend classes at people’s (folk) theatres, work in music and art studios, perform in orchestras. choreography circles, dancing ensembles, etc. The state provides funds for the development of amateur art, renting premises and props, payment to professional instructors and teachers, etc.

The principal task of socialist culture is to harmoniously develop the individual. The numerous cultural and educational institutions functioning in the USSR furnish every opportunity for this. Besides, the country has such publicly-run educational establishments called people's universities which teach after working hours. They provide systematic knowledge in various fields–social, political, technical. economic, natural sciences, culture, etc., within a relatively short period. Anyone can enroll. Studies in the people's universities are mostly conducted in lecture form. About one million enthusiasts – public-interest activists – give free instruction at these places.

From Socialism: Theory and Practice Magazine April 1984



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