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.
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.