How Sports Affected The Soviet Union

With the transformation of the built environment, the Soviet Union paid more attention about physical fitness, sports, and the upbringing of the youth. Sports were becoming more and more popular across the world and the Olympics began to be seen as a way to show off a nation’s superiority. The Soviet Union wanted to show that its people could compete against other nations and it saw sports as a way to make sure its citizens were physically fir for another war. In order to do this, the Soviet Union began to enforce its citizens and especially the youth, to participate in sports and physical education.

To start things off, sports was a big deal in the interwar period in Europe. Barbara Keys notes in her article that:                                                                                      One of the most popular forms of the new mass culture in interwar                  Europe was modern sport… Measured by popular followings and by its          growing political significance, sport    arguably represented the most              powerful and far-reaching of the period’s vibrant transnational cultural          flows (Pg. 414).                                                                                                                                The Soviet Union left the western system of international sport in the 1920s claiming it was based off of capitalism and exploitation but returned in the 1930s (Keys, pg. 414-415). The reasoning for their return was that the Soviet Union wanted to encourage its citizens to engage in sports and physical activity. The Soviet Union and other European countries encouraged this in order to create effective soldiers and workers (Keys, pg. 415). Seeing as how Russia came out of the First World War barely alive, the Soviet Union wanted to make sure its citizens were ready for another war and would be able to win a war. Another reason why the Soviet Union wanted to excel in sports was to impress Soviet strength to foreign countries and make the Soviet Union attractive to foreign workers (Keys, pg. 419). If the Soviet Union impressed other countries, then they could gain recognition and show that socialism is effective along with attracting foreign workers to live in the USSR, thereby strengthening it.

When the Soviet Union started, it consisted not just of only Russians, but other ethnicities as well. This can be seen where:                                                        The newly born Soviet Union was, at best, a loose federation of diverse nationalities and ethnic minorities. Non-Russians comprised more than half the Soviet population and strongly identified with their own cultures. Obviously, the social and political   ‘upbringing’ of future Soviet generations could not be entrusted to the family and other traditional institutions (Gist, pg. 118).                                                                                                                                                        The Soviet Union wanted to make sure the youth supported the government seeing as how they were the next generation. Thus, the Soviet Union controlled the time and energy of the youth in closely supervised activities. The goal was to create a group ready for mobilization for the military or other national priorities (Gist, pg. 118). While it does seem wise to train a generation in order to strengthen them, it seems like the Soviet Union is robbing them of their childhood. Instead of playing with their friends and being kids, the youth of the Soviet Union are being taught how to be a proper Soviet Union.

Following the First World War, the Soviet Union wanted to make sure its citizens were strong and ready for another war. In order to do that, sports and physical education was stressed and encouraged among the citizens. Along with that, the Soviet Union wanted to be internationally recognized and one way to do that was to excel in international sport competitions such as the Olympics. Doing that would make the Soviet Union equal or better than other competing nations and show off socialism. Finally, the Soviet Union wanted to have more control over the youth. Controlling the youth would decrease the chance of rebellion and make sure the next generation was strong and secure.


Gist, David M. “THE MILITARIZATION OF SOVIET YOUTH.” Naval War College Review,          vol. 30, no. 1, 1977, pp. 115–133. JSTOR, Accessed 6             Apr. 2020.

Keys, Barbara. “Soviet Sport and Transnational Mass Culture in the 1930s.” Journal of      Contemporary History, vol. 38, no. 3, 2003, pp. 413–434. JSTOR, Accessed 6 Apr. 2020.