Thursday, August 28, 2014


Drop, Squat, Thrust: Putin Revives Soviet-Era Fitness Program

Mass sporting events like those seen in the Soviet era could soon be returning to Russia. (file photo)
Mass sporting events like those seen in the Soviet era could soon be returning to Russia. (file photo)
If you could turn back the hands of time, what would you wish for?
For Russian President Vladimir Putin, it seems to be to return to the days of mass physical fitness. Not just of Physical Education training in schools -- which already exists in Russia -- but of mass calisthenics in stadiums, mass parades of athletes through Moscow's Red Square, and fluttering banners with slogans urging 'Everyone to the Starting Line!'
On March 24, Putin, a well-known fitness buff, signed an executive order to bring it all back. He ordered the revival of a Stalin-era fitness program from the 1930s called "Ready for Labor and Defense" or "GTO" by its Russian initials.
The state-sponsored program, which mixed fitness, health, and patriotism, had been moribund since the collapse of the Soviet Union, when it fell victim to Russians' suddenly greater freedoms of choice.
Now, GTO is due to start in September across the country. How it will look in its modern incarnation remains to be seen. But if it is anything like before, it will be a sight more reminiscent of the bygone days of the U.S.S.R., or Maoist China, than anything around in the world today.
WATCH: Soviet-Era Fitness Programs (In Russian)
Back in the U.S.S.R., people of all ages were expected to participate in GTO. If you were 16 to 18 years old, you were enlisted in your high school's "Strength and Courage" program, which included elements of military basic training.
Not only did you run, swim, and do cross-country skiing, depending on the season, you also ran obstacle courses and practiced grenade-throwing minus grenades. Sometimes there was rifle practice, too.
Older people got off lightly but not completely. Men between the ages of 40 to 60 and women from 35 to 55 were expected to take part in the "Vigor and Health" program run by the GTO's local branch.
Driving the whole program was the quest for medals and glory amid huge pomp and ceremony. In its heyday, the GTO sponsored annual championships in towns and cities across the Soviet Union, with 37 million people taking part in 1975.
The winners were feted on television and lionized in the state press.
But the lock-step nature of the parades and stadium events, with uniformed young people forming a giant Soviet star on the playing field, revealed that there was always more to the games than just sports.
The slogan of the GTO was "Your Motherland Calls for You to Be Ready for Work and Defense" and the program helped create the sense that the country was in a state of perpetual mobilization throughout the Cold War.
In signing his decree on March 23, Putin did not specify why he wanted to bring back the GTO in its Soviet-era form, complete with the pomp and parades. He only said his government had been considering "how to attract the vast majority of our citizens to take part in regular physical training" and that "reviving the GTO would "pay homage to our national historical traditions."
Putin, a devoted sportsman, is reported to have first floated the idea of reviving the GTO a year ago. He said the program will be split into 11 different age groups, beginning with the age of six, and he personally will receive a report each year on his new initiative's progress.

-- Charles Recknagel
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
March 25, 2014 18:45
In "Stalin's times" as you put it here, it was to health programs.
Indeed, Czarist and Lenin's tyrannies were killing and sickening
population, majority of Russia and invaded or occupied nations.
Each 7 years was hunger, Russian children were so weak, they
couldn't hold their bladders, as Varaga-Prussaka were mocking
dying people, calling themselves well fed Masters-Supermen.
In non-Russian countries people simply dying from hunger,
on frozen roads to Siberia, just killed, or at list kept sick.
Russia reinstated it since they put Stalin under house
arrest in 1947, to immobilize-sicken non-Russians.
During "Stalin times" they wanted all to be healthy,
To heal their wounds. Because WW2 was nearby,
it also evolve into making people healthy for work
and for defense. still, until 1956, it was the slogan:
Young be helped, graduating medium-high school,
as much as his constitution would allow, be strong,
be fast, be educated, be intelligent, proud and free.
After graduation one to choose his own path in life.
Since 1947-49 and1954-56 Russia in open selected
non-Russians and honest Russians - make them sick
intimidated, immobilized, submitting to Varag-Prussak,
unable to defend once right and dignity and plagiarize,
exploit, rob, usurp, repopulate his land, home, position.
Now Russia go again for sports and fitness. Why is that?
Is it because it invade-annex Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova
And ready to invade the whole Eastern Europe and CIS?
Is it because Georgia, Ukraine, with other non-Russians,
still get International prizes in Sports? Is it threat Russia?
Isn't it "We Russians always were and will be Victorious",
Putin? To betray your creators - nations around Russia?

by: jojnjo from: Dublin
March 26, 2014 00:39
I always knew Stalin was still alive & living in Russia, (in Putin.)

And by the day Stalin is proving me right...hmm...I mean "Putin".
In Response

by: Kurt J from: USA
March 30, 2014 16:38
What a weak comment. I can remember when John F. Kennedy introduced the same programs and so maybe Putin is emulating John F. Kennedy. Overall the level of Journalism in this article is a throwback itself to the days of the cold war propaganda. I expect better than this, it would be embarrassing if this was published in a major news outlet.

by: PernReader
March 26, 2014 18:54
It`ll be o`key! Owing to Russian tradition of imitation the self-imitation will be easy.

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