20 photos that prove the USSR was the sports empire!

Soviet people had to be healthy and fit, because only in this case could they live a long life... in order to work hard in factories and build the utopian communist future, of course.

The new Soviet state established sport and physical culture as one of the main points of its ideology. “A healthy spirit requires a healthy body,” Soviet official Kliment Voroshilov used to say. From childhood, Soviet kids had to do exercises, while physical education classes were obligatory in all schools and universities. Students had to pass special tests to match the special normatives that proved one was “ready for labor and defense”.

1. Medics doing gymnastics with kids in a kindergarten, 1965

No matter how early you woke up, you would never forget about morning exercises! That was what the Soviet state actively propagandized, especially via posters.

2. Morning exercises as part of the program in all the children camps and resort places, 1936  

3. Morning exercises of the Kremlin cadets, 1926-27

4. Students doing morning exercises on the rooftop of their dorm, 1932 

5. Workers at a textile factory limbering up for the day, 1960

Skiing was one of the obligatory winter sports in schools and became a national sport.

6. Skiers of all ages taking part in a mass ski race, 1927

7. Kids on a ski lesson, 1946 

Ice skating was another great love of Soviet people. Are you curious why Russians are so good at skating? Read here.

8. Two couples dancing on ice, 1947 

Kids were to foster the competitive spirit, so there were lots of tournaments between schools in different sports: from group disciplines such as football and basketball to running, gymnastics, swimming and winter sports we’ve already mentioned.

9. School kids getting ready to race in a swimming contest, 1946 

10. A male diver, 1934

Children had to climb the rope within the school program of physical education, not everyone was keen on this type of exercise.

11. Two girls climbing the rope, 1973

The Soviet state emphasised the importance of artistic gymnastics. School lessons of physical culture included exercises on parallel bars, pommel horse and horizontal bars. While there was a strong training school of the professional gymnasts.

12. A group of young female gymnasts going through their daily training program, 1964

Bar exercises were widespread in the Soviet army and among ordinary men, bars were installed for work out in many Soviet yards.

13. A man pulling off a trick on a bar, 1935 

As a part of amateur performances for school kids, forming complicated compositions quickly and synchronously was common.

14. A group of pioneers performing, 1932

The variety of mass gymnastics etudes was a field of art for Soviet avant garde photographers.

15. A poster featuring male gymnasts, 1926

16. Ready, stady, go! 1930s

Every year, the Red Square held huge Physical Culture Parades. Athletes marched with flags and banners across the square in front of the Soviet leaders who watched the show from the Lenin’s mausoleum.

17. Female athletes waving flags on a Red Square Physical Culture Parade, 1936

Physical Culture Parades are also known for the complicated figures that participants build from their own bodies. Spectacular - and a hard work was needed to prepare the show, as everything should have been just perfect.

18. A female gymnast group performing, 1936

In other words, these parades were spectacular!

19. Female athletes performing, 1936

By the way, this is one of the most popular static exercises, in the Soviet Union it was called ‘beryozka’, as a birch tree.

20. Better don’t try to repeat ‘beryozka’ at home! 1936

If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.

We've got more than 1,8 million followers on Facebook. Join them!
Read more

This website uses cookies. Click here to find out more.

Accept cookies