Semyon Friedland: Sports in the Soviet Union

Today, we take you back in time to discover the history of sports in the Soviet Union through the eyes of Semyon Friedland.

Semyon Osipovich Friedland (1905-1964) is a well-known Soviet photographer who will catapult us back into a time only visited by memory. His collection of sports in the USSR captures the dynamics of national pride and athletics.

(Click on the photos to view them in a slideshow format)


During the Soviet Union era, sports was made a part of daily life. As staunch believers of the Activity theory (think of it as a triangle), the government believed that if they could have everyday people participate in sports (at the base of the triangle), they will be able to produce more top-level athletes (at the apex of the triangle).

Citizens of the Soviet Union were put in either a particular sport programme or an overall physical fitness programme if they had no preferences. Physical culture (fizkultura or Физкультура) is emphasised since a young age to inculcate values like endurance, teamwork and resourcefulness. What is so Soviet about this, though?

It could be said that the Soviet government pushed it as a way to encourage mass participation. They saw sports as one of the ways of developing loyalty to the State and Party, and to develop qualities like discipline and collectivism.

Today, Russia is among the top nations with the most number of medals at international competitions like the Olympic games.

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