This week Matt chats with Kristaps Andrejsons, from the Eastern Border Podcast, about the Soviet Union’s mass athletics program. Sport is always political, by examining the intentions behind the program we learn about the socio-political and moralistic ideologies of the Soviet Union. Or, Matt just wanted to resurrect another undergrad paper!
We start off by getting to know Kristaps, why he started his podcast and find out what brand of imperialism he hates more! He also introduces us to a surprise guest, Uncle Gundars who was visiting from Mother Russia! Before jumping into the pre-Bolshevik sporting context, we hear Daughter of the Northern Wind from the Latvian symphonic/melodic/gothic/folk metal and rock band Oceanpath.
Kristaps kicks things off by describing life in Tsarist Russia, while Matt describes the limited athletics happening prior to WW1. 1917-20’s was an era of tumultuous upheaval in Russia with revolutions, civil war and non-stop Cake Parties. Despite this situation, what would become the Soviet Union established a trailblazing public health system (The GTO) that ‘encouraged’ athletic participation. Results were recorded, quantified and measured against the results of other groups as a way of formalizing, or manufacturing, the New Soviet Man (Homo Sovieticus).
This program became so ‘popular’ that professionalism and world-class finishes were attached to the model in the 1950’s (part 2) allowing the Soviets to dominate international competition for the next 4 decades; even being exported to the satellite states and emulated by the West to such an extent that “modern athletics” is very Soviet. We wrap up by hearing another track from Oceanpath, this one is aptly named The Puppet Show.
Thanks again to Kristaps from the Eastern Border Podcast for joining me in the deep dive, did you know he also fences?!? Thanks to Uncle Gundars for sharing your stories and to Oceanpath for the fiery tunes that went so well with these episodes. You can find Oceanpath: On Facebook @Oceanpath,Soundcloud, or their website.
Sport, Politics, and CommunismJames Riordan Manchester University Press, 1991
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