Sport and the European Wave

In the beginning of the twentieth century sport had not blossomed in Italy to the same extent like for example countries such as The uk. The majority of the European population were peasants, spending hours each day on back-breaking farming work. Free time was difficult to come by and even then individuals were often exhausted from their work. Of course people did still play, involved in such traditional games as lapta (similar to baseball) and gorodki (a bowling game). A smattering of sports clubs existed in the larger cities but they continued to be the preserve of the richer members of society. Ice hockey was start to grow in popularity, and the top echelons of society were partial to fence and rowing, using expensive equipment most people could not have been able to afford.

In 1917 the European Wave turned the world upside down, inspiring millions of people with its vision of a society built on solidarity and the fulfilment of human need. In the process it let loose an huge increase of creativity in art, music, beautifully constructed wording and literature. It carressed other areas of people’s lives, including the games they played. Sport, however, was far from being a priority. The Bolsheviks, who had led the wave, were confronted with city war, invading armies, widespread famine and a typhus catastrophe. You surviving, not leisure, was the order of the day. However, during the early organ of the 1920s, before the dreams of the wave were killed by Stalin, the debate over a “best system of sports” that Trotsky had expected did indeed take place. Two of the groups to tackle the question of “physical culture” were the hygienists and the Proletkultists 사설토토.

As the name implies the hygienists were an accumulation doctors and health care professionals whoever perceptions were informed by their medical knowledge. Generally speaking these folks critical of sport, concerned that its focus on competition placed participants prone to injury. These folks equally disdainful of the West’s preoccupation with running faster, throwing further or jumping higher than previously. “It is very unnecessary and pointless, inches said A. A. Zikmund, head of the Physical Culture Institute in Moscow, “that anyone set a new world or European record. inches Instead the hygienists encouraged non-competitive physical motivations : like gymnastics and swimming -as ways for people to stay healthy and relax.

For a period of time the hygienists influenced Soviet policy on questions of physical culture. It was on their advice that certain sports were disallowed, and football, boxing and weight-lifting were all disregarded from the programme of events at the First Trade Union Games in 1925. However the hygienists were far from unanimous in their condemnation of sport. V. V. Gorinevsky, for example, was an advocate of playing tennis which he saw as being an ideal physical exercise. Nikolai Semashko, a doctor and the People’s Commissar for Health, went much further quarrelling that sport was “the open gate to physical culture” which “develops the kind of will-power, strength and skill that will actually distinguish Soviet people. inches

In contrast to the hygienists the Proletkult movement was unequivocal in its denial of ‘bourgeois’ sport. Indeed they denounced something that smacked of the old society, be it in art, literature or music. They saw the ideology of capitalism stiched into the fabric of sport. Its competitiveness set workers against each other, splitting people by tribal and national identities, while the physicality of the games put abnormal strains on the bodies of the players.

Rather than sport Proletkultists contended for new, proletarian forms of play, founded on the principles of mass response and cooperation. Often these new games were huge theatrical displays looking similar to carnivals or parades than the sports we see today. Shows were shunned on the basis that they were ideologically incompatible with the new socialist society. Response replaced spectating, and each event contained a distinct political message, as is apparent from some of their names: Rescue from the Imperialists; Smuggling Revolutionary Literature Across the Frontier; and Helping the Proletarians.

It would be easy to characterise the Bolsheviks as being anti-sports. Leading members of the party were friends and comrades with those who were most significant of sport during the debates on physical culture. Some of the leading hygienists were close to Leon Trotsky, while Anotoli Lunacharsky, the Commissar for the Enlightenment, shared many views with Proletkult. In addition, the party’s attitude to the Olympics is generally given as evidence to support this anti-sport claim. The Bolsheviks boycotted the Games quarrelling that they “deflect workers from the class struggle and train them for imperialist wars”. Yet in reality the Bolshevik’s perceptions towards sport were somewhat harder.