Bowling for Communism: Urban Ingenuity at the End of East Germany with Andrew Demshuk.

Bowling for Communism with Andrew Demshuk
East German Book in English – Author Interview

On today’s episode of Radio GDR, the East Germany Podcast, GDR Objectified‘s John Paul Kleiner chats with the author of Bowling for Communism: Urban Ingenuity at the End of East Germany Andrew Demshuk.

The eastern German city of Leipzig is known as the “City of Heroes” for its role as home to the protests which led to the demise of the state socialist regime. Explanations for why Leipzigers took to the streets have often focused on a number of factors including political repression, the desire to travel and economic stagnation, but author/academic Andrew Demshuk makes a compelling argument in his book Bowling for Communism that, for many Leipzigers, the slow motion decay was a decisive factor in their decision to rise up.

John Paul Kleiner – GDR Objectified

More About Bowling for Communism

Bowling for Communism illuminates how civic life functioned in Leipzig, East Germany’s second-largest city, on the eve of the 1989 revolution by exploring acts of “urban ingenuity” amid catastrophic urban decay. Andrew Demshuk profiles the creative activism of local communist officials who, with the help of scores of volunteers, constructed a palatial bowling alley without Berlin’s knowledge or approval. In a city mired in disrepair, civic pride overcame resentment against a regime loathed for corruption, Stasi spies, and the Berlin Wall.

Reconstructing such episodes through interviews and obscure archival materials, Demshuk shows how the public sphere functioned in Leipzig before the fall of communism. Hardly detached or inept, local officials worked around centralized failings to build a more humane city. And hardly disengaged, residents turned to black-market construction to patch up their surroundings.

Because such “urban ingenuity” was premised on weakness in the centralized regime, the dystopian cityscape evolved from being merely a quotidian grievance to the backdrop for revolution. If, by their actions, officials were demonstrating that the regime was irrelevant, and if, in their own experiences, locals only attained basic repairs outside official channels, why should anyone have mourned the system when it was overthrown?

The Book in Brief

Listen to Andrew Demshuk’s short summary of his book Bowling for Communism: Urban Ingenuity at the End of East Germany.

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Join our East Germany Facebook group to talk more about the GDR!
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