In This Review

Club Red: Vacation Travel and the Soviet Dream
Club Red: Vacation Travel and the Soviet Dream
By Diane P. Koenker
Cornell University Press, 2013, 328 pp

Leisure, the counterpoint to work in the eyes of social scientists and planners everywhere, played a particularly utilitarian role in the Soviet Union. In the early years of the Soviet era, vigorous outdoor activity held sway as a restorative and as a repudiation of the pleasure-filled, hotel-bound vacations favored in the West. Gradually, the regime made room for health sanatoriums and vacation travel, although still guided by “scientifically planned and purposeful activities.” Ironically, these changes began in 1927, on the eve of Stalin’s brutal collectivization of agriculture and first five-year plans. Koenker, with discriminating thoroughness, traces the evolution of Soviet vacationing from that point through the mid-1980s. Over time, Stalinist holidays of fitness and patriotism for the new proletariat gave way to a different model for a different set of beneficiaries, drawn from the Communist Party and bureaucratic elite. By the late 1960s, Soviet vacationers had become less objects of the system and more consumers with a taste for “variety, comfort, service, and family vacations.” This is well-told history, a portrait of life in the Soviet Union that will be recognizable to those who lived it.