From Black Caviar to Blackouts

Jill Massino

in Communism Unwrapped

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199827657
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199950461 | DOI:
From Black Caviar to Blackouts

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This chapter offers a historical analysis of the gender implications of consumption in postwar Romania. As Jill Massino explores, Romania as elsewhere in the Bloc, experienced “liberalization” in the post-Stalinist period. In fact, as oral interviews reveal, many Romanian women still remember the first decade of Nicolae Ceauşescu’s rule as a time of relative plenty, when a range of consumer goods became available to the average man and woman. As elsewhere in the Bloc, however, women played particular roles as consumer-citizens. Ceauşescu’s new vision of modern socialist womanhood encouraged a consumer oriented lifestyle, which openly blended “Western” styles and socialist values. The Romanian regime’s promotion of consumption in connection with new visions of womanhood were an integral part of efforts to create a modern and mobilized socialist citizenry that would boost the larger project of “building socialism,” while still retaining reproductive roles. In Romania, however, unlike elsewhere in the Bloc, the global recession of the 1980s had catastrophic effects on ordinary individuals. Ceauşescu’s embrace of nationalism, autarchic policy of debt repayment, and draconian pronatalism was particularly felt by women who had to scramble to nourish their children. In Romania, people experienced the most dramatic contrast in the Bloc between the 1960s and 1970s “golden age” of consumerism and the dire circumstances of the last decade of communist rule.

Keywords: gender; consumption; women; everyday life; state socialism; Romania; modern/modernity; lifestyle; Nicolae Ceausescu; the West

Chapter.  10043 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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