Parade of Athletes

Image result for Drago
Discipline of the bodies:

During the late 1920s into the early 1930s, there was a debate about the difference between capitalist and socialist physical culture. In the past, before the revolution, most sports had been accessible only to the privileged social classes. The Bolsheviks had been isolated to the physical culture of sports and hygiene. But in the 1930’s the Soviet State revitalized regimented the idea of the body and it’s features under the Bolsheviks. The newer generation, “was healthier than any other before, and their healthy bodies stood as a metaphor for their healthy minds, unsullied by the psychoses and depravities that plagued their western peers.” They no longer unsupported the idea of individual accomplishment and increased competition abroad. New bonds appeared through togetherness and discipline unifying the Soviet people in a new nationalist area in their life.

              As James Von Geldern describes in his subject essay, “Every year young physical-culturalists from all over the Soviet Union would march through Red Square on May Day and salute their leaders, saluting themselves as they did and declaring their allegiance.” Spectator sports increased internationally, and competitive nature of sports allowed the Soviet Union to compete under their flag. They became very successful winning the USSR Cup twice prior to WWII sponsored by many major organizations within the country watching their athletes win in brand new stadiums. Soccer was the biggest sport at the time, below is a picture in the mid-1930s of Nikita Khrushechev and Joseph Stalin at Lenin’s tomb during a parade of athletes.

Nikolai Starostin, far left, a founder of Spartak Moscow, pictured in the mid-1930s with Soviet leaders, including Nikita Khrushchev and Joseph Stalin, at Lenin’s Tomb during a parade of athletes.

In the journal of Soviet Sport and Transnational Mass Culture in the 1930s Barbara Keys stated, “Years after the first world war measured by popular followings and growing political significance sports arguably represented the most powerful and far-reaching of the periods vibrant transnational cultural flows.” The international system of sporting competition allowed countries to challenge to national cultural sovereignty of other states. At first during the 1920s, the Soviet Union believed that international sports were an ideal based on capitalism and isolated themselves away from that “western system.” However, the soviets began to see the benefit of sports and created their own domestic physical culture that moved towards integration into the international sports system to compete. As they entered into the League of Nations in 1934 this was an even larger step towards cooperation with the “bourgeoisie” and combat the fascist regimes on the rise in Europe.

This rise of athleticism was not strictly emphasized in Russia, there had been a dramatic increase across the globe. The political competition between fascism, capitalism, and communism seemed to be competed through sports. Prior to the actual war in 1939, of course. The biggest player in American history during the 1930’s that defeated the German Nazi Party competing in the 1936 Olympics was Jesse Owens. He competed in track and field in the heart of Germany, Berlin. “The 1938 Joe Louis-Max Schmeling fight became a “freedom versus fascism” grudge match. Louis emerged the victor.” This rise in sports and athletic competition continues to this day with worldwide competitions and national recognition.

As a summary to the rise of sports and physical education in the 1930’s here is a quick film to show how sports had looked throughout this decade.

Despite Russia’s great increase in athletic abilities…it still continues to lose to the great American superiority. Drago lost in 1985 against Rocky and again Drago’s son loses against Creed in 2018.

This post was featured on the Comrade’s Corner!

8 thoughts on “Parade of Athletes

  1. Hi Austin! Your post was a very compelling read! I liked how you dove deeper and addressed the impact of sports on people as a whole. Sports truly have many pros that aren’t physical, like how they promote teamwork and competition. Great post!


  2. Austin, so happy you included Rocky/Creed in your post (everything needs more Rocky)! I really like how you’ve explored the connection between international sports and international politics – they’re linked in such a fascinating way! Also, great job finding and including outside sources, they add a lot to your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Austin,

    Sports are such an interesting way to frame this post, and I think you did an excellent job of sharing its greater connection to politics. For Americans, sports are largely entertainment, but we have also seen increasing political activism through the role (Kaepernick, for example). It is interesting to see how this compares to Russia’s understanding of community and collective identity. I never knew that some saw international sports as capitalism, but I’m glad that sports were reframed to ensure greater participation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s a pretty cool photo you included of Lenin’s tomb. I also find it interesting how states see the importance of sports in dealing with international relations especially in the case of soccer how the matches often serve as a parallel to battles and wars that would be fought.


  5. What a great post! I love the way you weave in the politics of “real” sports” with their cinematic representation. As Emma says, “Everything needs more Rocky!.” And you found some great sources that make your narrative really interesting…the JSTOR article, of course, but that YouTube video…wonderful!
    The music for that video is called “The Sportsman’s March” and was a hit in the 30s. And did you notice the range of sports depicted? Volleyball and track, of course, but motorcycle riding? And flag waving? There’s also this pretty interesting tension between sports as spectacle and sport as a community / leisure activity.


  6. Thanks for talking about sports, Austin. I feel they always seem to be overlooked as a cultural phenomenon that shapes society. Competition and success in international sport is a unifying element, and in this case also an ideological battle with other countries.


  7. Austin, I think you did a great job of showing the importance of sports not only as recreation but the politics involved with them in the 20th century. Great post overall!


  8. I love the way you connected sports to the larger theme of communism vs. capitalism (and the rocky 4 picture.) The new version and outlook of the body under the Bolsheviks was really interesting to me, especially soccer being the most popular sport. I also agree that sports can unify a group of people and build patriotism.


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