Communist Chic in the Former Eastern Bloc

There’s nothing unusual about people returning to the fashions, products and social spots of their youth, but when that youth was spent in communist Eastern Europe, nostalgia takes on new levels of meaning.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that young and old alike in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and other countries in the region are engaging in a fashion craze for communist-era clothing, eateries and brands of sneakers and soft drinks.

There are even new nightclubs that are explicitly modeled on the infamously gray, institutional look of the old Eastern Bloc.

The fad is sometimes referred to by the German term “Ostalgie,” or “nostalgia for the East,” the Monitor reported.

Andreas Ludwig, a museum director, said that the trend is a combination of pop culture and a “social critique” of Western-style capitalism.

Indeed, while some older residents are merely clinging to the fashions they’re used to, a major inspiration for Ostalgie among younger people appears to be ambivalence about how things have changed since the fall of communism almost 20 years ago.

Speaking about a communist-era brand of sports shoes that is enjoying a big comeback in Hungary, anthropologist Balazs Frida told the Monitor that “[b]oth the right and the left are talking about Americanization, Westernization, and cultural homogenization. Something like Tisza shoes is embraced because it’s retro, it’s Hungarian, and it’s also a statement against the big corporate brands.”

–Will Crain/


“Communist retro-chic: East-bloc icons win new status”
Christian Science Monitor, March 6, 2008

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