Laying the foundations of physical culture: The stadium revolution in Socialist Yugoslavia

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After liberation, the incipient socialist Yugoslavia engaged its citizens in an indefatigable process of reconstruction. An enormous wave of volunteers threw themselves into regenerating stricken cities and shattered infrastructure. A bastion of the revolution, physical culture was no exception: interwar venues were repaired and hundreds of new ones were built. These included flagship stadiums, as well as more modest undertakings: athletics grounds on Croatian islands, mountaineering hunts in Kosovo, and Bosnian bowling alleys among them. Major projects received public funding, but others relied on self-initiative, causing friction between the authorities and zealous locals. As the ‘stadium revolution’ evolved, professional companies worked on vast football grounds. At its zenith, expensive undertakings like Split’s Poljud [built for the 1979 Mediterranean Games] were highly prestigious for the communist authorities. These venues constitute a mixed socialist legacy, but many continue to serve the needs of successor states. Using archival documents and photographs, this essay explores a stadium revolution that unfolded in parallel with the revolution at large. It examines the dynamics that shaped Yugoslav sport and society. Yugoslavia’s experience, while unique, did not occur in a vacuum; the case provides a new perspective on the development of sporting infrastructure in revolutionary environments in general.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-752
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of the History of Sport
Issue number9
Early online date17 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


  • Stadiums
  • Socialist Yugoslavia
  • Physical culture
  • Sporting infrastructure
  • Football grounds
  • Voluntary labour

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