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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



in the socialist countries, mass cultural and educational institutions that organize the leisure time of the workers and contribute to their communist upbringing, self-education, and development of creative abilities. In the USSR palaces and houses of culture, clubs, and village reading rooms fall into this category.

The creation of a network of clubs in the USSR was begun in November 1920, when a decree of the Council of People’s Commissars established in the system of the RSFSR People’s Commissariat for Education the Glavpolitprosvet (Central Committee for Political Education). The following was noted in a resolution of the Tenth Congress of the RCP (Bolshevik) in March 1921: “For the successful execution of its fundamental task, which is the conducting of communist propaganda and agitation among the masses, Glavpolitprosvet must acquire flexibility like that of the party apparatus, delicacy and quick response to the needs of the masses, and liveliness and must combine these qualities with systematism, precision, swiftness, and work on the basis of a known plan.” In 1922 in a letter to the blue-collar and white-collar workers of the Elektroperedacha State Electric Power Station, V. I. Lenin wrote about the need “to turn the club into one of the most important centers of education for workers” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 45, p. 271). A. V. Lunacharskii, the first people’s commissar for education, noted: “Club work is of great importance. A club must be a slice of socialism, a place for study as well as rest and for the spreading of the basic principles of the new socialist understanding of life and socialist construction among the people” (Desiatiletie revoliutsii i kul’tura, 1927, pp. 12–13).

In 1913 in Russia (within the present borders of the USSR) there were 237 clubs and people’s houses altogether, the majority of which were under the constant surveillance of the police. Since the establishment of Soviet power, in the course of the cultural revolution, clubs have developed on a broad scale. In 1922 there were 12,200 clubs; in 1940, 118,000; and in 1970 more than 134,000 (including 2,300 publicly operated clubs). On the basis of the authority that has jurisdiction over them, clubs in the USSR are categorized as state, trade union, kolkhoz, or other kinds of clubs.

The basic areas of activity are mass political work; job, military-patriotic, moral, and aesthetic training; scientific-atheistic propaganda; sports work among the masses; and nonprofessional artistic creativity. The activities, forms, and methods of work are constantly being perfected. Along with the use of traditional forms (lectures, reports, evening sessions on particular themes, concerts, and so forth), the clubs are introducing and assimilating new forms of political education and mass cultural activity. Among these new forms there are people’s universities (of economics, law, culture, health, and so forth) and amateur groups based on common interests (for example, in technical fields, art studies, and sports). Some clubs offer self-financed courses in typing, cutting and sewing, knitting, and decorative needlework, as well as workshops in decorative design and other artistic skills. The honored title of “People’s” is bestowed upon the best of the regularly functioning groups of amateur arts clubs, those having a fully developed personnel and a repertoire of ideological and artistic value.

Table 1. Expansion of club systems in the USSR
1Public clubs are not grouped according to type or departmental affiliation
2The decrease in the number of reading rooms is explained by the transformation of some of them into clubs of a higher level, village houses of culture
Total number of clubs125,4191,340,2041
Clubs under the Ministry of
 Culture of the USSR80,14190,161
  Raion houses of culture4,5063,060
  City houses of culture and clubs3562,064
  Village clubs and houses of culture34,79579,350
  Reading rooms and other clubs40,4845,6872
Kolkhoz clubs32,11616,555
Trade union clubs10,33521,639
Clubs of other departments and organizations2,8273,404

Displaying constant concern for the development of cultural and educational work, the most immediate goal of the Communist Party is the perfection of the system of providing cultural services for the population, the heightening of the role of clubs in sociopolitical life, and the organization of people’s leisure time.

The experience of the USSR in creating and developing a system of clubs is being successfully used by countries of the socialist fraternity. Thus, in the Polish People’s Republic, województwo (provincial) palaces of culture, powiat (district) palaces of culture, and village clubs are doing mass political work and cultural and educational work. In the People’s Republic of Bulgaria the basic type of cultural and educational institution is the people’s reading hall, which has an age-old history: it is a club, a library, a music and arts school, and a workers’ place of rest all in one. Similar clubs serving the cause of the communist upbringing of workers have also been created in the other socialist countries.


Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 41, pp. 398–400; vol. 44, pp. 155–75.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.