7 things Slovaks really miss the most about socialist times and communism

Cheap food, sturdy cars, parades and much more…

Photo © Škoda /

We all have heard it a zillion times – in the past, everything was better! The grass was greener, sky bluer, food tasted better and people smiled at each other all the time. Well, we´re just humans and it seems like a crucial part of human nature to forget the worst and remember everything somehow nicer than it actually was. In Slovakia this perfectly applies to people´s never-ending sentiments for their communistic past. So what do Slovaks really miss the most about the Iron Curtain? And is there really that much to miss…?

1# Cheap and quality groceries

Milk for 6 eurocents, bread for 10, beer for 7? Now there´s really something to miss! Cheap groceries are among top things Slovaks are going to mention when trying to persuade you how their lives were better during the socialist era. Though these numbers are genuinely correct, one shouldn´t forget that an average starting salary of university graduate at the same time was less than 60 Euros (converted from Slovak Crowns which are no longer in use). Comparing modern groceries full of chemistry to those “pure and quality” ones from the past is just as tricky. Thought contemporary import-export practices may have caused disappearance of some high-quality local products (substituted by less quality imported goods), it´s also true that producers in the past were not obliged to publicly admit all of the ingredients on packages like they do now. This means that we simply had no clue how many E-s our food contained.

2# “Unbreakable” Eastern bloc cars and motorcycles

Who needs all those blinks and beeps and fancy electronic toys inside their cars, anyway?! What a real die-hard Slovak driver truly wants is a car or bike that can run on virtually anything, be repaired with a pair of pliers and survive the end of the world! Ok, let´s put the pink glasses off. Most of classical Eastern bloc automobiles such as Lada, Škoda, Trabant, Moskvič , Tatra and their motorcycle counterparts JAWA, Pionier, Babeta were notoriously unreliable, often faulty right from the factory, rusty after a summer rain and consumed so much gasoline even Arabian sheiks would cry. Still they are often deeply missed for their unbeatable character and all those adventurous stories they accompanied Slovaks through in their youth…

3# Safety!

Fewer cars on the streets, less drugs among the youths, less fancy things and money to steel… Yes, it was reasonably safer to live your everyday life in Slovakia during the past regime and it´s pretty hard not to miss it. Our kids will never play unaccompanied in the middle of Bratislava´s suburbs anymore, no football on the main road (where hardly any cars drove) and no walking to and from the school alone. Feels like there´s a potential danger hiding everywhere nowadays. On the other hand, some of the threats have also (thankfully) disappeared – like being indicted to secret police by your jealous neighbor for being a “hidden supporter of the West”, for example…

4# Jobs for everyone

Imagine you would never have to write another CV, sweat on the job interview, break your tongue trying to convince someone you are sent from above for the position you don´t even really like. Yes, citizens of socialistic Slovakia were more or less spared from all these pains as there was some job somewhere waiting for everyone. Unlike all of the previous benefits which are mostly missed by older folks, this is something that youngsters envy their parents for. But as usually, nothing was really that simple. The truth is our ancestors were literally obliged to have a job since not working was illegal and could result in lengthy “vacation” behind the bars! And even thought there might have been SOME job for everyone, hardly anyone was really doing what he would like to. In fact, it was pretty common to find, for example, university graduates in the factory or groceries store…

5# All those great movies and TV series which are still enjoyable today

Communism and censorship were like two sides of one coin. You couldn´t have one without another. Yet even with so many talented artists being banned and so many topics forbidden, Czechoslovak filmmakers still somehow managed to create a whole bunch of timelessly beautiful movies and television series we can (and do!) still enjoy watching. Looking at the contemporary Slovak movies and easily forgettable soap operas, one has to wonder where all the talent has gone. The truth is that once you somehow managed to push your idea through various commissions and juries in the past, you were pretty much granted to get all of the resources you needed (from top actors to world class technique and studios) without any real expectations of return. You were obliged to showcase socialistic art in its best form and not to make any real revenue from cinemas or advertisements. This, paradoxically, allowed art to form people´s taste and not the other way around, like it often is today…

6# Pioneers and parades

Ask any Slovak older than 40 years to recall at least part of the famous Pioneer vow – they surely will. That´s because being a child in socialistic Slovakia automatically meant to be a pioneer. Attending pioneer meetings, singing pioneer songs, wearing notorious red pioneer scarf around your neck. You couldn´t avoid and was literally forced to be part of it. Yet many Slovaks still remember it as something cool, exciting – and ultimately worth being missed. Of course, it had its benefits – children spent more time with each other (and less in front of television), they learnt about the discipline and arguably even had some real fun. Yet the compulsory character of this fun still might leave a bad taste in your mouth. The same applies for the famous May 1 parades. Kids were taken directly from schools and adults of from their working places, everyone was supposed to march the streets showing off their endless gratefulness for their socialistic lives. A little bit cool…but a bit more scary…

7# Solidarity, unity, equality…

Sounds almost French, huh? Yes, people were much more united when all of them wore the same clothes, worked in the same factories, drove the same cars and spend their holidays side by side near the same lakes as no one could really travel anywhere else. Many people – mostly those who find it somehow harder to succeed in the modern market economy environment, tend to believe that social equality should be granted by the state to everyone regardless of their actual amount of effort and skills. But was this really the case prior to the Velvet revolution in 1989? In fact, it took very little to end up in rather unfair position, being stripped from your basic rights and chances for no real reason – like being forbidden to attend university because your uncle fled to Austria, for example. But, as the saying goes, the beauty always lies in the eye of beholder…

Notice: this article is opinion and view of the author and not the official view of the portal

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