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Training Socialist Citizens

Sports and the State in East Germany


Molly W. Johnson

Offering a counterbalance to previous scholarship on elite Olympics sports and doping scandals, this study analyzes how the East German government used participatory sports programs, sports festivals, and sports spectatorship to transform its population into new socialist citizens. It illuminates the power of the East German dictatorship over its population, the ways that citizens participated in, accommodated to, and resisted state goals, and the government’s ultimate failure to create eager socialist citizens. It also highlights the orchestration of participation in modern dictatorships, the role of mass participatory sports as both a valuable political tool and a popular leisure activity, and elements of continuity and change in twentieth-century German history.