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About Soviet Culture Houses

Learn about Soviet culture houses which were integral club institutions in former socialist countries. Discover their history and the significant role they played in education and propaganda.

House of culture (Дом культуры) is a club institution, a center of cultural and educational work in (former) socialist countries, as well as in some Spanish- and French-speaking countries.

The massive development of club institutions began in the USSR in November 1920, when the Glavpolitprosvet was formed by decree of the Council of People's Commissars in the system of the People's Commissariat of Education of the RSFSR. People's houses(Народные дома), built in the second half of the 1880s, were then transformed into workers' clubs and cultural centers.

Culture house in Haytagh village

Almost every village had its own culture house, and cities had many of them. In some cases, even factories and institutions had their culture houses. Each of these culture houses had a hall for theatrical performances and other ceremonies, equipped with a movie projector. Children could engage in various activities like dancing, chess, and arts. As a rule a public library was also housed in the Culture House. Above all they served a perfect place for spreading Soviet propaganda! Posters, special films and meetings served for that purpose!

A well preserved (also renovated but they kept the original look) hall in a culture house

While culture houses in the Soviet Union shared a similar architectural style, their interior design could vary depending on the region.

Following a period of relaxed repression and censorship known as "The Khrushchev Thaw" (which spanned from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s due to Nikita Khrushchev's policies of de-Stalinization and peaceful coexistence with other nations), artists began to decorate these culture houses with elements from their own national cultures. Although these expressions of national identity were seen as nationalistic and were not always welcomed by Moscow, they marked the resurgence of art and freedom of expression.

A large fresco in a culture house! It depicts fedayi Andranik, his soldiers and dancing women! This could pretty much be classified as "nationalistic" in Soviet union and Kremlin could urge to destroy!

In Armenia, artists drew on the nation's rich history, depicting heroic scenes from Armenian epic poems and history. Many of these artworks have survived to the present day.

In 1988, there were over 137,000 club establishments in the Soviet Union, and even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, many of them continue to exist. Since many have not been renovated and still look as they did decades ago, a visit to these culture houses promises to be a historical tour back to the old Soviet times.

Even nowadays you can come across to old projectors in culture houses! They stopped working long time ago but add a special charm to the places!

On my website, you can explore the "Urbex Armenia" section to learn about many culture houses waiting for your discovery!


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