Mass games or mass gymnastics are a form of performing arts or gymnastics in which large numbers of performers take part in a highly regimented performance that emphasizes group dynamics rather than individual prowess.
Mass games is now performed only in the May Day Stadium (highest capacity seating stadium in the world) but in the '90s there were mass games held at the Kim Il Sung Stadium. Mass Games can basically be described as a synchronized socialist-realist spectacular, featuring over 100,000 participants in a 90 minute display of gymnastics, dance, acrobatics, and dramatic performance, accompanied by music and other effects, all wrapped in a highly politicized package. Students practiced every day from January onwards. The 90 minute performance is held every evening at 7pm and features the 'largest picture in the world' a giant mosaic of individual students each holding a book whose pages links with their neighbours’ to make up one gigantic scene. When the students turn the pages the scene or individual elements of the scene change, up to 170 pages make up one book.
According to Kim Jong Il, the philosophy behind the events was that:
Developing mass gymnastics is important in training children to be fully developed communist people, to be fully developed communist man, one must acquire a revolutionary ideology, the knowledge of many fields, rich cultural attainments and a healthy and strong physique. These are the basic qualities required of a man of the communist type. Mass gymnastics play an important role in training schoolchildren to acquire these communist qualities. Mass gymnastics foster particularly healthy and strong physiques, a high degree of organization, discipline and collectivism in schoolchildren. The schoolchildren, conscious that a single slip in their action may spoil their mass gymnastic performance, make every effort to subordinate all their thoughts and actions to the collective—Kim Jong Il, On Further Developing Mass Gymnastics. Talk to mass Gymnastics Producers. April 11th 1987
Mass games developed alongside 19th century nationalist movements, particularly the Czech Sokol movement, as they embodied youth, strength, militarism, and unity.. Participants were factory workers brought in by Party Secretaries.
In Romania, the communist government organized compulsory mass games after Communist Party leader Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife had visited China and seen such games there. These days were the hardest working days of the year since every individual was required to participate along with his fellow workers. Being late on this day or not shouting the party leader's name loudly enough would lead to being reported by fellow workers and to prosecution.
In Bulgaria, mass games were occasionally held during the Zname na mira ("Flag of Peace") international youth festivals. However, Bulgaria did not have a tradition of mass games, and performances were rare.
Today, mass games are regularly performed only in North Korea, where they take place to celebrate national holidays such as the birthdays of rulers Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. In recent years, they have been the main attraction of the Arirang Festival in Pyongyang. The 2004 documentary film by VeryMuchSo Productions and Koryo Tours A State of Mind details the training of two young girls from Pyongyang who perform in the mass games.
Aririang mass games were first performed in 2002 in Pyongyang's May Day Stadium and have been held every year since - between August and October and on one occasion in Spring. The show was on 4 times a week. Tourists from all over the World including US passport holders were welcomed to the DPRK during Mass Games.
Sokol organization for Czech and other Eastern European youth athletic organize exposition, competition, and nationalist identity building event organized called Slet. The word slet means 'a gathering of falcons'. The first Sokol slet was held in 1882 in Prague to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Sokol organization. Since 1994 it is held every 6 years.
- A State of Mind - UK produced documentary about child gymnasts in training for the Mass Games
- Government-organized demonstration
- Propaganda in North Korea
- "Mass Games in North Korea". Insight. Transcript. 2005-10-04. CNN.
- "History". SOKOL USA CHICAGO GYMNASTICS. Retrieved 22 December 2008.
- Bednar, Charles and Sivak, Paul: The Sokols and Their Endeavor. 1948.
- (Full) video clip of mass games, September 2001
- Site about mass gymnastics under communism
- Mass Games and North Korea photo gallery
- Professional photo series of the 2009 "Arirang" Massgames in North Korea
- Sarbatori comuniste in Deva (in Romanian)
- Mass Games in North Korea
- Mass Games film and specialist travel to mass games Koryo Tours is the company that produced the film on the mass games 'A State of Mind' video insert on this page
- What is a Sokol "Slet"?