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Re: Go East Young Man?

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  • Martin Votruba
    ... A number of Western studies discussed some more detailed aspects of communist economy especially in the late 1980s. Information about average salaries,
    Message 1 of 21 , Sep 16, 2008
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      > get all this information

      A number of Western studies discussed some more detailed aspects of
      communist economy especially in the late 1980s. Information about
      average salaries, price levels, purchasing power, etc., was not
      published under communism.


      > In communism, was the driving force for wages really as the
      > workers explained it to me- that a person who actually
      > produced something tangible was regarded as more valuable
      > and therefore paid more that those whose work was purely
      > intangible/theoretical-i.e. teachers, managers

      In theory. In practice, they were paid about the same. Moreover, the
      laborers and everyone else was getting a regular salary regardless of
      whether they actually produced marketable tangibles, and regardless of
      their actual quantity.

       
      > Where did the Tuzex come from? Wasn't this, as well as bony,
      > really for the rich or lucky?

      Such stores existed also in Russia (Beriozka), Poland (PKO), Hungary
      discontinued them in the 1970s. They were set up to increase the
      likelihood that people from the West sent their relatives and friends
      currency rather than goods.

      > How did you get bony?

      No one was paid in the purchase coupons (bony). People got them only
      in exchange for any Western currency. It had nothing to do with
      privilege, etc. Those who didn't have a supply of Western currency (a
      vast majority of it from relatives in the West, some obtained from
      Westerners on the black market) would buy the coupons from those who
      did. It was illegal but the government rarely cracked down on that in
      order not to jeopardize the purpose of the stores. People often sold
      the coupons outside a Tuzex store.


      > How well was a Tuzex stocked? I always pictured a Tuzex
      > as not being well-stocked

      You're right, Ben. Only the fact that it carried some items not
      available elsewhere made the stores desirable. The distribution of
      the stores showed how many especially East Slovaks had relatives in
      the US. While there were only 3 Tuzex stores in all of the Czech part
      of the country (2/3 of Czechoslovakia populationwise), there was one
      in Bratislava, one in Banska Bystrica, and when you hit East Slovakia,
      they were suddenly almost a regular local feature -- Poprad, Stary
      Smokovec, Michalovce, Kosice, Presov.


      > Milka can't remember- but she does remember how one girl at
      > school had the 'coolest' clothes- since her mom worked at a Tuzex.

      Those who worked in the Tuzex stores were paid in crowns. If they
      wanted to buy anything there, they needed to get the purchase coupons
      (bony) the same way everyone else did. No one in Czechoslovakia,
      communist official or not, was paid in the purchase coupons (bony).


      Martin
    • Ben Sorensen
      Just to clarify in my own mind... Were the Tuzex strategically placed according to the supply of western currency? Is that why they appear more in the east?
      Message 2 of 21 , Sep 17, 2008
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        Just to clarify in my own mind...
        Were the Tuzex "strategically" placed according to the supply of western currency? Is that why they appear more in the east? (just to clarify it for me... in case I missed something.)  I know that the migration of Slovaks from the east to the mines and steelmills of Pennsylvania and Ohio was great, also to Chicago. (The best "rifova pistalka" maker, Jan Strban, was born in Chicago. :-P) This brings me to the supply line of the Tuzex- didn't this cause any resentment from those in the western parts of Slovakia and the Czech Republic? As I understood, the Tuzex was stocked with western goods- so how did they manage to get these goods? I thought that trade with the west was at best discouraged, and in reality all but illegal.
        Ben

        --- On Tue, 9/16/08, Martin Votruba <votrubam@...> wrote:

        From: Martin Votruba <votrubam@...>
        Subject: [Slovak-World] Re: Go East Young Man?
        To: Slovak-World@yahoogroups.com
        Date: Tuesday, September 16, 2008, 10:24 AM






        > get all this information

        A number of Western studies discussed some more detailed aspects of
        communist economy especially in the late 1980s. Information about
        average salaries, price levels, purchasing power, etc., was not
        published under communism.

        > In communism, was the driving force for wages really as the
        > workers explained it to me- that a person who actually
        > produced something tangible was regarded as more valuable
        > and therefore paid more that those whose work was purely
        > intangible/theoreti cal-i.e. teachers, managers

        In theory. In practice, they were paid about the same. Moreover, the
        laborers and everyone else was getting a regular salary regardless of
        whether they actually produced marketable tangibles, and regardless of
        their actual quantity.

         
        > Where did the Tuzex come from? Wasn't this, as well as bony,
        > really for the rich or lucky?

        Such stores existed also in Russia (Beriozka), Poland (PKO), Hungary
        discontinued them in the 1970s. They were set up to increase the
        likelihood that people from the West sent their relatives and friends
        currency rather than goods.

        > How did you get bony?

        No one was paid in the purchase coupons (bony). People got them only
        in exchange for any Western currency. It had nothing to do with
        privilege, etc. Those who didn't have a supply of Western currency (a
        vast majority of it from relatives in the West, some obtained from
        Westerners on the black market) would buy the coupons from those who
        did. It was illegal but the government rarely cracked down on that in
        order not to jeopardize the purpose of the stores. People often sold
        the coupons outside a Tuzex store.

        > How well was a Tuzex stocked? I always pictured a Tuzex
        > as not being well-stocked

        You're right, Ben. Only the fact that it carried some items not
        available elsewhere made the stores desirable. The distribution of
        the stores showed how many especially East Slovaks had relatives in
        the US. While there were only 3 Tuzex stores in all of the Czech part
        of the country (2/3 of Czechoslovakia populationwise) , there was one
        in Bratislava, one in Banska Bystrica, and when you hit East Slovakia,
        they were suddenly almost a regular local feature -- Poprad, Stary
        Smokovec, Michalovce, Kosice, Presov.

        > Milka can't remember- but she does remember how one girl at
        > school had the 'coolest' clothes- since her mom worked at a Tuzex.

        Those who worked in the Tuzex stores were paid in crowns. If they
        wanted to buy anything there, they needed to get the purchase coupons
        (bony) the same way everyone else did. No one in Czechoslovakia,
        communist official or not, was paid in the purchase coupons (bony).

        Martin


















        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Martin Votruba
        ... Yes. ... People disliked the megatons of problems communism brought about, worrying about Tuzex would have been on about the 100,000th page of a list of
        Message 3 of 21 , Sep 17, 2008
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          > Were the Tuzex "strategically" placed according to the
          > supply of western currency?

          Yes.

          > This brings me to the supply line of the Tuzex- didn't this
          > cause any resentment from those in the western parts of

          People disliked the megatons of problems communism brought about,
          worrying about Tuzex would have been on about the 100,000th page of a
          list of their concerns. It wasn't a store people would shop every day
          or even every month. If you anyone really wanted to, they would make
          the trip to where the store was, just like an American might travel
          some extra distance once in a long time to a specialty wine store or
          something like that.

          > the Tuzex was stocked with western goods- so how did they manage
          > to get these goods? I thought that trade with the west was at
          > best discouraged, and in reality all but illegal.

          I'm not sure what you mean, Ben. There were no private businesses,
          Tuzex, like any store, service, or factory, was owned and run by the
          government. Meaning, the only entity the government would have been
          discouraging from trading with the West would have been itself. All
          the communist countries traded with the West. Guns were among
          Czechoslovakia's most profitable exports.


          Martin
        • Ben Sorensen
          I m not sure what you mean, Ben. There were no private businesses, Tuzex, like any store, service, or factory, was owned and run by the government. --   There
          Message 4 of 21 , Sep 17, 2008
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            I'm not sure what you mean, Ben. There were no private businesses,
            Tuzex, like any store, service, or factory, was owned and run by the
            government. --
             
            There I go confusing the systems again. Sorry about the lame-brained question. :-P I guess in a society of private business, it is easy to forget the obvious.
             
            I have heard alot of discontent with Havel's administration-many in the east blaming him for destroying thier livelihoods by shutting down the gun factories just so he could win a Nobel.  Now, I know that what is said and what really happened are very often disjointed.. :-P So, what really happened to the gun-works? Is there any truth to this?
             
            Ben


            --- On Wed, 9/17/08, Martin Votruba <votrubam@...> wrote:

            From: Martin Votruba <votrubam@...>
            Subject: [Slovak-World] Re: Go East Young Man?
            To: Slovak-World@yahoogroups.com
            Date: Wednesday, September 17, 2008, 9:38 AM






            > Were the Tuzex "strategically" placed according to the
            > supply of western currency?

            Yes.

            > This brings me to the supply line of the Tuzex- didn't this
            > cause any resentment from those in the western parts of

            People disliked the megatons of problems communism brought about,
            worrying about Tuzex would have been on about the 100,000th page of a
            list of their concerns. It wasn't a store people would shop every day
            or even every month. If you anyone really wanted to, they would make
            the trip to where the store was, just like an American might travel
            some extra distance once in a long time to a specialty wine store or
            something like that.

            > the Tuzex was stocked with western goods- so how did they manage
            > to get these goods? I thought that trade with the west was at
            > best discouraged, and in reality all but illegal.

            I'm not sure what you mean, Ben. There were no private businesses,
            Tuzex, like any store, service, or factory, was owned and run by the
            government. Meaning, the only entity the government would have been
            discouraging from trading with the West would have been itself. All
            the communist countries traded with the West. Guns were among
            Czechoslovakia' s most profitable exports.

            Martin


















            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Martin Votruba
            ... I agree completely, Ben. ... Havel s step was more of a pronouncement, very unwise politically, rather delusional in a broader sense, and quite ignorant of
            Message 5 of 21 , Sep 17, 2008
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              > I have heard alot of discontent with Havel's administration-many
              > in the east blaming him for destroying thier livelihoods by
              > shutting down the gun factories just so he could win a Nobel.
              > Now, I know that what is said and what really happened are
              > very often disjointed.. :-P

              I agree completely, Ben.

              > So, what really happened to the gun-works?

              Havel's step was more of a pronouncement, very unwise politically,
              rather delusional in a broader sense, and quite ignorant of those who
              would be affected. He was speaking as the president, but still with a
              former dissident's abstract fantasies about an infinitely just
              (according to his own concept of justice, of course), peaceful,
              equitable system that many like he assumed was the essence of the
              Western democracies. He wanted to take Czechoslovakia one step
              further (without thinking of real people). A result was that
              armaments production began to be scaled down, but that was soon
              mitigated when the companies were privatized and did whatever they wanted.

              > many in the east blaming him for destroying thier livelihoods

              As to East Slovakia, it was hardly affected, because it had little of
              that kind of production. What was affected greatly were the plants in
              Martin (Central Slovakia) and some farther down the Vah Valley. It is
              highly likely that they would have been in trouble anyway, because
              they produced mainly tanks and other military vehicles and machinery
              that weren't marketable outside the former communist bloc.

              But it's one thing for a business to go down "naturally," and quite
              another thing for the president of a country to postulate a loss of
              some of its citizens' livelihood. It was also quite striking to many
              in Slovakia that the major munitions plant in Brno (the Czech part of
              the country) -- that one was _the_ exporter under communism and has
              remained so -- hardly scaled down before it was privatized.

              BTW, Havel also said that time (1990) that Czechoslovakia could catch
              up with Austria in about 7 years. As things are, the purchasing power
              in the Czech R., even after its separation from less affluent
              Slovakia, was still merely at about 60% of Austria 16 years later.
              The dissidents, like many other people under communism, had a lot of
              fantasies about how things might be, and instantly so, without communism.


              Martin
            • Ron Matviyak
              ... often disjointed.. :-P Ahh ... we can see that often enough in our own politics and happenings in the west. ... To add a footnote, on one of my drives into
              Message 6 of 21 , Sep 17, 2008
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                --- In Slovak-World@yahoogroups.com, Ben Sorensen <cerrunos1@...> wrote:
                >
                > Now, I know that what is said and what really happened are very
                often disjointed.. :-P

                Ahh ... we can see that often enough in our own politics and
                happenings in the west.

                >So, what really happened to the gun-works?
                > Ben

                To add a footnote, on one of my drives into Slovakia shortly after the
                fall of communism, I diverted from the 'shortest route' to drive
                through Uhersky Brod, one of the centers of gun manufacture. This is
                south of Zlin near the Slovak border in the area occupied by the
                Slovaci.

                The town was quite rich, comparable to well kept towns in western
                Europe at the time, in contrast to the crumbling stucco, bleached &
                weathered colors on the building and the poor appearing roads and
                facilities in the rest of Czechoslovakia.

                I have always loved fine machinery, to include guns and cameras, but
                there were no tours of the manufacture that a casual tourist could
                take at the time.

                Ron
              • Martin Votruba
                ... Which reminds me that I said the factory in Brno produced ammunition by mistake -- it, too, produced guns. Thanks for the note, Ron. Martin
                Message 7 of 21 , Sep 17, 2008
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                  > through Uhersky Brod, one of the centers of gun manufacture.

                  Which reminds me that I said the factory in Brno produced ammunition
                  by mistake -- it, too, produced guns. Thanks for the note, Ron.


                  Martin
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