Meet the World

Early on of the twentieth century sport had not flourished in Paris to the same extent just as countries such as The british isles. The majority of the Russian population were peasants, spending hours each day on back-breaking lawn care time. Amusement was difficult to come by and even then people were often exhausted from their work. Of course people did still play, taking part in such traditional games as lapta (similar to baseball) and gorodki (a bowling game). A smattering of sports clubs existed in the larger cities but they kept the preserve of the richer members of society. Ice hockey was needs to grow in popularity, and the superior echelons of society were fond of fencing and rowing, using expensive equipment most people would not have been able to afford.

In 1917 the Russian Revolution turned the world upside down 사설토토, inspiring millions of people with its vision of a society built on solidarity and the fulfilment of human need. In the process it free an exploding market of creativity in art, music, poems and literature. It handled all areas of people’s lives, including the games they played. Sport, however, was far from being a priority. The Bolsheviks, who had led the revolution, were confronted with municipal war, invading armies, widespread famine and a typhus outbreak. Your survival, not leisure, was the order of the day. However, during the early section of the 1920s, before the dreams of the revolution were smashed by Stalin, the debate over a “best system of sports” that Trotsky had believed did indeed take place. Two of the groups to tackle the question of “physical culture” were the hygienists and the Proletkultists.

As the name implies the hygienists were a collection of doctors and health care professionals whose thought patterns were informed by their medical knowledge. Generally speaking we were looking at critical of sport, concerned that its increased exposure of competition placed participants liable to injury. We were looking at equally disdainful of the West’s preoccupation with running faster, throwing further or jumping higher than ever before. “It is utterly unnecessary and unimportant, inch said A. A. Zikmund, head of the Physical Culture Institute in Moscow, “that anyone set a new world or Russian record. inch Instead the hygienists strongly suggested non-competitive physical likes and dislikes — like gymnastics and swimming -as ways for people to stay healthy and relax.

For a period of time the hygienists influenced Soviet policy on questions of physical culture. It was on their advice that certain sports were forbidden, and football, boxing and weight-lifting were all overlooked from the programme of events at the First Trade Union Games in 1925. However the hygienists were far from unanimous in their condemnation of sport. V. V. Gorinevsky, for example, was an advocate of playing tennis which he saw as being an ideal physical exercise. Nikolai Semashko, a doctor and the People’s Commissar for Health, went much further reasoning and arguing that sport was “the open gate to physical culture” which “develops the type of will-power, strength and skill that ought to distinguish Soviet people. inch

In contrast to the hygienists the Proletkult movement was unequivocal in its sexual rejection of ‘bourgeois’ sport. Indeed they denounced any scenario that smacked of the old society, be it in art, literature or music. They saw the ideology of capitalism weaved into the fabric of sport. Its competitiveness set workers against each other, dividing people by tribal and national identities, while the physicality of the games put ‘out of place’ strains on the bodies of the players.

In place of sport Proletkultists quarreled for new, proletarian forms of play, founded on the principles of mass taking part and cooperation. Often these new games were huge theatrical displays looking a lot more like carnivals or parades than the sports we see today. Prize draws were shunned on the basis that they were ideologically incompatible with the new socialist society. Taking part replaced spectating, and each event contained a distinct political message, as is apparent from some of their names: Rescue from the Imperialists; Smuggling Revolutionary Literature Across the Frontier; and Helping the Proletarians.

It would be easy to characterise the Bolsheviks as being anti-sports. Leading members of the party were friends and comrades with those who were most crucial of sport during the debates on physical culture. Some of the leading hygienists were close to Leon Trotsky, while Anotoli Lunacharsky, the Commissar for the Enlightenment, shared many views with Proletkult. In addition, the party’s attitude to the Olympics is often given as evidence to support this anti-sport claim. The Bolsheviks boycotted the Games reasoning and arguing that they “deflect workers from the class struggle and train them for imperialist wars”. Yet in reality the Bolshevik’s thought patterns towards sport were somewhat more complicated.