Luzhniki Stadium (1957)

Luzhniki Stadium (1957)

          On July 31, 1957, the Grand Sports Arena of the Luzhniki Olympic Complex (commonly referred to the Luzhniki Stadium and previously referred to as the Central Lenin Stadium) was opened in Moscow. This event not only had implications in the world of Russian sports, but also in the worlds of culture and politics.

          On the Seventeen Moments in Soviet History site, Lewis Siegelbaum authors a subject essay that refers to the stadium as “The Palace of Sport”. In addition to discussing how Luzhniki Stadium affected Russian sporting abilities, Siegelbaum refers to the building as a manifestation of Soviet progress. He writes, “The opening in 1956 of Moscow’s Luzhniki Sports Complex, located at the southern bend of the Moscow river, was the symbolic culmination of the massive transformations undergone by the entire country.” Siegelbaum goes on to cite numerous improvements in Soviet culture and society, especially in the workforce. He concludes, “All these changes, then, created possibilities for the growth of spectator sports…”. Siegelbaum’s essay illustrates how the construction of the Luzhniki Stadium naturally coincided with the other improvements occurring in Soviet society.

          In the Current Digest of the Russian Press database, an article entitled “CONSTRUCTION OF NEW STADIUM IN CAPITAL” discusses the specifications of the new stadium with pride. It finishes by saying, “The new stadium in Luzhniki will be one of the most modern.” The article shows the excitement of the Russian people for such a massive sporting complex. Another article in the database, entitled “GREAT CONCERN FOR THE PEOPLE’S WELFARE“, shows how the stadium could be of political significance to the Soviet people. The author writes, “The constant concern of the Party and government for the welfare of the people is clearly manifested in an event that took place July 31 in Moscow, the capital of our country: the Central Stadium, named for the great Lenin by a decree of the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet, was completed and opened in Luzhniki.” The article describes the opening of the stadium in political terms, purporting that it is yet another instance of the Soviet government responding promptly to the needs and desires of its people.

          In chapter thirteen of Russia: A History, author Gregory L. Freeze outlines growing discontent amongst the Russian people and the need to address their dissatisfaction. He writes of an anonymous letter sent to the Komsomol at the end of 1956; the letter denounces Soviet propaganda and counters, “‘You [party elites] of course have communism; we have starvationism, inflationism, and exploitationism of the simple working people'” (Freeze 425). This letter illustrates the fact that many Soviet people were discontent with their standard of living. The construction of Luzhniki Stadium can be seen as a concession to the people. Rather than extending certain political freedoms, the Soviet government made efforts to improve Russian life on a cultural level. Although at face value the stadium appears to be merely a sports facility, it could be argued that it dually served the purpose of satiating one desire of the people.

Picture of Luzhniki Stadium taken by me in January of 2013

Picture of Luzhniki Stadium taken by me in January of 2013