Primary Sources

Samizdat, Consumer Goods


Czechoslovaks watched the unfolding of perestroika [restructuring] in the Soviet Union and its slow introduction into their own economy with great interest, although there were obstacles to doing so. While the Czechoslovak Communist Party was ready to start experimenting with economic perestroika, it maintained reservations about glasnost [openness or publicity]. It suppressed reports about Soviet developments in the official Czechoslovak news. Still, local interest in Gorbachev's reforms was so strong that Czechoslovaks purchased and read Soviet newspapers (Russian-language study was mandatory in Eastern European schools). Further, samizdat publications contained reports on Soviet developments and their significance for Czechoslovakia. Samizdat, which can be translated as "self-publication", consisted of journals, pamphlets and books that were illegally published, distributed and read. One samizdat publication was Lidové noviny [The People's News; pronounced "Lee-doe-ve No-vee- knee"]. Its editors included Jiří Ruml, Jiří Dienstbier a Ladislav Hejdánek, all of whom were involved with the illegal dissident movement Charter '77. This underground publication began to appear monthly in 1988.

The following document and many documents found in this teaching module are translations of articles from Lidové noviny. These samizdat pieces represent non-government views on the quality of everyday life in Czechoslovakia and reasons for that quality. A particular point of interest in the next document is the comparison of everyday life between an Eastern and a Western European country. During the 1980s such comparisons became more common in the East Bloc as growing numbers of Eastern Europeans had access to television programs from the West, including the American mini-series "Dallas."

To see the associated Teaching Module on Everyday Life in Eastern Europe, click here.


"k", "What Sort of Living Standard We Have, Part II [Jakou máme životní úroveň, II]," trans. Cathleen M. Giustino, Lidové noviny, March 1988, no. 3, 9.

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How to Cite this Source

K, "Samizdat, Consumer Goods," Making the History of 1989, Item #271, (accessed May 28 2021, 3:38 pm).

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