West of Red Square, just to the north of Moscow’s famed White House, there is a tiny, tree-lined stadium, tucked into a corner of the city’s historic Krasnaia Presnia district. It was on this hallowed ground, opened in 1922, that the celebrated Starostin brothers joined with their childhood pals to introduce the modern spectacle of soccer to their friends and neighbors. The favorite sport of laboring men in Britain and elsewhere, soccer caught on in the district before 1917 and was avidly adopted by male Russian workers during the first postrevolutionary decade. In 1935, the Starostins founded the most popular of all Soviet sports teams, Spartak, named for the rebel slave of ancient Rome, Spartacus. At the same time, the state sport structure congealed into its familiar bureaucratized form. Yet, well before then, the men and boys of the region had made soccer a game of their own, and Spartak’s predecessor, Krasnaia Presnia, a team of their own.
From the outset, the club and its supporters used sport to manifest attitudes toward a variety of institutions and groups, including the party-state. These sentiments were developed in the course of competition with other sports organizations, the most important of which was the Dinamo (Dynamo) Society. Founded in 1923 by the secret police, it was the first Soviet sport club. Responsible for the physical training of Bolshevism’s guardians of order, Dinamo received greater state support than any other sports group. Yet such largesse never translated into popularity among the working men who comprised the early football public. Spartak, on the other hand, was always the beloved favorite of Muscovite, and later Soviet, fans, a status it maintained despite dramatic ups and downs on the playing field. This station was unusual, even unique, in the annals of world sport.
Manchester United, Barcelona, Boca Juniors, and others have all enjoyed great runs at the top of their respective leagues, but when their success waned, so did support outside their home cities. In the United States, the New York Yankees dominated baseball for interminable stretches, but it would be hard to call them beloved throughout the nation, much less their own city. Spartak, on the other hand, was always number one in the hearts of the USSR’s “lovers of football.” Independent of the state’s structures of force (police and army), sponsored by civilian organizations, Spartak afforded those ordinary people who supported it what one Soviet scholar later called “a small way of saying ‘no.'”
During the 1930s, forced draft industrialization and collectivization were accompanied by an intensification of repression, limiting resistance to such “small” gestures for all but the few and the brave. At the same time, a larger, more socially heterogeneous working class swiftly emerged in response to the demands of the new Stalinist command economy. Half a century later, Western scholars of Soviet labor came to argue about the character and attitudes of this group. Some even questioned if it was a coherent “group” at all, capable of defining its shared characteristics and acting politically on its own behalf. There were also sharp disagreements about method between historians who favored a largely materialist social history and others who placed greater emphasis on the role of language and culture. In their introduction to the 1994 essay collection, Making Workers Soviet, Lewis Siegelbaum and Ronald Grigor Suny noted, “Workers have been portrayed in one of three ways: as genuine supporters of the system, as sullen victims or as opportunists employing strategies to maximize their chances of survival and advancement.” At the time, it seemed a new agenda had been set, but, despite a large body of excellent scholarship, these controversies remain unsettled, as historians have turned their attention away from labor history in light of the collapse of communism and the profession’s “cultural turn.”
My aim here is to revisit this debate, using new sources and a different analytical domain, specifically sport, to examine the attitudes of Soviet workers toward the regime. Those sentiments derived, in part, from the swiftly changing processes of identify formation experienced by Soviet citizens during the 1930s. Yet, for many American readers, the historical links between sport and identity may not be immediately clear. Team support as a social-cultural marker has been a phenomenon of large European, Australasian, and Latin American cities with numerous teams. In the United States, sport became a profit-making enterprise earlier than it did in Europe. Major league baseball clubs were granted territorial franchises. A single city had one, sometimes two, teams that were the property of owners, who were free to move them. Outside North America, the territorial franchise was not guaranteed, and teams were required to fight continually for local preeminence. Soccer clubs did not move. They emerged from various settings, including churches, pubs, factories, social clubs, and block associations. Teams were deeply imbedded in their communities, and decisions to root for a particular club said much about the way supporters saw themselves. These were matters of identity, and the choices were freely made by individuals and groups—even in the USSR.
Before World War II, the working people of Moscow were not only establishing political identities as friends or foes of the state, they were also elaborating cultural identities as modern urbanites and gendered identities at a time of changing definitions of manhood and womanhood. It has, however, proved difficult for historians to establish the specifics of those self-characterizations. The factory floor and trade union gave only partial answers. Similarly, the high politics of the party were an important but not sufficient piece of the puzzle. There were no election results, opinion surveys, or a free press to expose worker attitudes. It is, therefore, necessary to look beyond formal structures and adopt an understanding of politics that, to use the phrase of Geoff Eley and others, is “radically deinstitutionalized.” To look at play, the neighborhood and the criminal world opens “the question of . . . popular culture—in which people strive to define their identities, their boundaries, their self-respect, their ‘space’ against the established order.”
While students of the working class have given considerable attention to leisure in recent years, the recreational domain has been relatively untouched by students of the Soviet experience. Yet sport was one of the few relatively free places in Soviet life, and the public’s choices expressed their feelings toward the party-state. Shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Armenian anthropologist Levon Abramian told a British journalist, “In a Communist country . . . the football club you supported was a community to which you yourself chose to belong. The regime did not send you to support a club . . . It might be your only chance to choose a community, and, also, in that community you could express yourself as you wished. To be a fan . . . is to be gathered among others and to be free.” Choosing a community was especially important in Moscow, continued Abramian: “Only there were there several teams, each representing a different social class . . . Most Spartak fans belonged to a low social class . . . [and] were a bit violent.” While the specific category of class proved to be controversial among historians of Soviet labor, there can be no question that the “chosen communities” of fans both constituted and expressed the complex relations between subordinate and dominant groups in Soviet society. Spartak fans saw themselves as ordinary folk and called Spartak “the people’s team.” Dinamo also drew some support from workers, as well as thousands of white-collar employees of the Ministry of Interior, but it was primarily the team of the police—one of the most privileged sectors of society under Joseph Stalin.
In the last decade, scholars of sport have devoted considerable attention to studying the relationships between teams and their surrounding communities. Where those communities have been composed largely of laboring people, sport, the favorite entertainment of male factory hands, can reveal a great deal about working-class life. These men, subject to the controls of the assembly line, were more likely to reveal themselves at play than at work, but the description of the audience is only one part of this puzzle. It is equally important to examine the organizers or owners of teams. What were their class, ethnic, and religious ties? How did they present and market themselves to the public? Given the hierarchical nature of spectator sport, there was not a pure identity between a team’s followers and its leaders. Fans could choose to attend or not attend games, but they were not involved in day-to-day management. Spartak therefore, cannot be understood without examining the role of the Starostins, particularly the eldest, Nikolai, and Andrei. They rose from the dangerous streets of prerevolutionary Moscow to manage Spartak’s predecessors during the 1920s, when making money was both permissible and necessary.
In creating a highly successful team through what some felt were suspect business methods, they became extremely popular, while enjoying a measure of independence from the regime. They operated at the highest levels of the party, employing their own patronage network to do battle with Dinamo, not only on the playing field but in the corridors of political power. Elite connections were necessary for the Starostins to achieve their fundamental aim—the running of a sports-entertainment enterprise. Eventually, their approach angered powerful enemies in the secret police, and they were swept into the purges. Yet the Starostins’ tactical cultivation of friends in high places did not diminish their support among the capital’s laboring men.
The social differences between Spartak and Dinamo were amplified by a variety of competing ways of viewing, training, disciplining, and organizing the fundamental unit of athletic activity—the human body. As Pierre Bourdieu has noted, “sport is with dance one of the areas in which the problem of relationships between . . . language and the body, arises in a most acute form . . . There are a great many things we understand only with our bodies.” Such documentary silence complicates the work of the historian, particularly the student of Russia and the USSR who must contend with Russian intellectuals’ disinterest in the body. Their reluctance to write on this subject was born of two sets of attitudes: the historic anti-somatic bias of the intelligentsia and the related prudery of official Soviet social-science discourse, which largely ignored matters of sex and desire. Yet, throughout the Soviet era, intense and revealing battles raged around what the anthropologist Susan Brownell and others have called body culture—”a broad term that includes daily practices of health, fitness, dress and decoration, as well as gestures and postures . . . It also includes the ways those practices are trained into the body, the way the body is publically displayed and the lifestyle expressed in that display.” Spartak and Dinamo practiced very different body cultures, which reinforced the social tension so fundamental to their rivalry.
These contradictions were deepened by the differing versions of manhood practiced by the teams’ fans. To paraphrase Richard Holt, the history of Soviet soccer is a history of men. During the 1930s, they were offered various versions of manhood, and, since “the body,” as R. W. Connell suggests, “is inescapable in the construction of masculinity,” those views were closely tied to the competing body cultures presented by various sports groups. Sport was seen as a dynamic, modern activity offering urban men of all classes models of strength, responsibility, and vigor. Yet Spartak’s older, working-class tradition of fanship was often violent and little concerned with “sportsmanship.” Dinamo athletes, on the other hand, were supposed to project a respectability and fairness, derived from middle-class notions of “rational recreation.”
As Andrei Starostin noted, “Spartak had many sources but just one birthplace—the Presnia” —renamed Krasnaia (Red) Presnia in honor of the militance of its residents during the revolution. For several decades before 1917, football in Russia followed a classic pattern of modern cultural diffusion. Outside its birthplace, Britain, the sport was primarily a middle-class pastime, imported by such agents of modernity as factory managers, engineers, and diplomats. This was the case not only in Russia but in Spain, Germany, and Argentina as well. Moscow lagged behind Petersburg in most matters of Western-derived popular culture, and soccer was no exception. The first organized matches in the capital were played in 1897. A Moscow league was formed only in 1910. The city’s amateur soccer clubs charged high membership dues to keep out workers, who were not allowed by the police to gather in any uncontrolled group. The teams of the Moscow league staged their games on fenced-off fields before crowds of a few thousand ticket-buying spectators drawn from the same respectable milieu as the players. Young men from Moscow’s industrial regions, like kids everywhere, practiced their own version of “street” (dikii, literally “wild”) football on rough fields, vacant lots, and apartment house courtyards, while dodging cart drivers, building superintendents, and the occasional policeman. The borders between these two versions of the game were not impermeable, and some boys with interest and talent were able to find their way into the city’s established clubs.
The Presnia experienced explosive economic expansion after the peasant emancipation of 1861, becoming an extensive and varied industrial zone. This concentration of factories, several enormous, made the district an attractive destination for thousands of peasants migrating to Moscow. With so many large firms, the district was more homogeneously working class than other parts of Moscow’s semi-rural suburbs, where factory workers did not constitute a majority of laboring hands. Despite the variety of occupations in the district, the labor market was poorly organized. This did not make the Presnia a peaceful place, and crime was rampant. A sense of danger permeates the memoirs of the Starostins, who came to play leading roles in the district’s football life. The brothers, however, were different from their working-class and artisan neighbors. Their father, a hunting guide, had brought the family from the village of Pogoist in Pskov Gubernia to Moscow, where his employer, the Imperial Hunting Society, set them up in a comfortable house on Presenskii Kammer-Kollezhskii Val. Their somewhat elevated circumstances made the brothers liminal figures who were able to move easily between the streets of their neighborhood and the nearby institutions of organized sport. This was true particularly of Nikolai (1898–1996), who studied at a commercial academy, where he started playing soccer at age nine. By the time he was a teenager, Nikolai had already demonstrated the qualities of the “wheeler-dealer” he became later in life.
Soviet and Western sources describe the Presnia’s working population as active, militant participants in the revolutionary events of 1917, and Soviet-era memoir and journalistic accounts predictably claim the Starostins and their friends welcomed the revolution. Yet few of the Presnia’s young footballers seem to have played an active political role. Soon thereafter, the hardships of the Russian Civil War took a predictable toll on sport and everything else in Moscow. But these trials did not obliterate the activity of the practitioners of street football. If anything, new opportunities were created. While the prerevolutionary clubs had not closed down, most of their members had fled, leaving the facilities available to those previously excluded. In the neighborhood, sporting activity was led by Ivan Artemev, a war veteran and now a member of the Komsomol (Communist Youth League). With most of the old clubs lying dormant, it seemed an opportune time to create a workers’ athletic organization in the neighborhood. The Moscow Sport Circle (later Krasnaia Presnia) was formed in 1921. Artemev assumed leadership of the district’s sporting life and with his colleagues fixed upon a potato field as the site of a “stadium” for local athletes. They received permission to build, and in 1922 the new venue became a reality.
During the 1920s, club soccer, despite its popularity, was not played on a national basis. Teams competed in city championships. At the end of certain seasons, select squads from each city took part in an All-Union tournament. These inconsistencies reflected the uncertainties of the semi-capitalist New Economic Policy (NEP, 1921–1928). Like so much else in early Soviet life, no one was sure how to go about organizing matters of athletic activity in a postrevolutionary society. As a result, the Bolsheviks were left to base their approach on the two available Western models of sport: professionalism and the formally amateur Olympic movement. In the late nineteenth century, American and European entrepreneurs rushed to take advantage of increases in leisure time and disposable income by creating sporting spectacles to entertain rather than educate middle and working-class audiences. Olympism, as developed by the French baron de Coubertin, was a reaction to the crassness of sports professionalism, whose practitioners and followers were largely drawn from subordinate social groups. By contrast, many of the disciplines on the Olympic program had military applications, appealing to the elites who composed the Olympic Games’ earliest audience and leadership. A conservative response to divisive nationalisms and socialist internationalism, Olympism viewed sport as a vehicle for social improvement. The Bolsheviks, who also believed in social improvement, refused to take part in the games, citing the exclusion of workers, but Olympism appealed to the Communist Party, which saw it as a way to convince the backward to embrace modernity.
Those who favored sport’s didactic possibilities were considerably less comfortable with soccer. In the context of the early NEP, important domestic games of the Moscow city league could draw up to 10,000 spectators, who paid the not-inconsiderable sum of 60 kopecks (100 to a ruble) for a ticket. There was money to be made, an activity permissible under the NEP. Inevitably, an atmosphere of professionalism emerged. Realizing their power, players called for higher pay and more comfortable traveling conditions. In order to survive, teams scheduled large numbers of money-making “comradely” (tovarishcheskie) or “friendly” games outside local league programs. Krasnaia Presnia regularly took part in twenty to thirty such matches each year, at times barnstorming as far afield as Central Asia. Other Moscow teams also traveled. As Nikolai Starostin later made clear, under the conditions of the NEP, ticket sales were his team’s sole source of revenue. Krasnaia Presnia was run as an enterprise, and the lessons learned with this local team would be remembered in the 1930s. Unlike Dinamo, created from the top down, the future Spartak was based on an extended group of neighborhood friends.
Along with professionalism, violence became common on the field and in the stands, leading to discussions of outlawing the game. Women, who were encouraged to participate in many of the sports on the Olympic program, were banned from soccer. Unlike Olympic sport, football had become a rowdy, corrupt entertainment, not the kind of leisure activity sought by a party-state trying to change the behaviors of its citizens. In 1926, sport clubs were reorganized with teams based on industries rather than regions. Starostin found a sponsor in the food workers’ union (Pishchevik). The team assumed the union’s name but, more significantly, moved the site of its games from the heart of Krasnaia Presnia to the new 13,000-seat Tomskii Stadium in nearby Petrovskii Park. In 1928, Dinamo Stadium (capacity 35,000, later 55,000) opened across the street. This first serious Soviet venue was later rented to Spartak and other teams for important matches. From 1926 to 1934, the future Spartak changed sponsors repeatedly, as it competed unsuccessfully with Dinamo for supremacy in the capital. At the end of this period, the team sought a more powerful patron.
Nikolai had enjoyed cordial relations with Promkooperatsiia, a wealthy organi-zation that supervised large segments of the lucrative retail trades. Its roughly 600,000 members were salespeople, tailors, barbers, waiters, and others in the service sector. At the same time, the head of the Komsomol, Alexander Kosarev, was seeking to expand his organization’s control in the area of sport. Nikolai brought Kosarev into contact with Ivan Pavlov, the head of Promkooperatsiia. The Komsomol offered political support, while Promkooperatsiia furnished funding. In November 1934, Kosarev charged the Starostins with organizing and naming the new group. They gathered friends and relatives and spent an all-night brainstorming session before settling on “Spartak.” The name proved meaningful. Of the major sports organizations to emerge before the war, Spartak was the only group named for a revolutionary leader who had the added virtue of being an athlete. Nor was the choice lost on the fans. The original Spartacus had fought for the poor against the rich, and many came to feel Spartak was the unofficial representative of those who still suffered exploitation. On April 19, 1935, the national Spartak Society opened its doors. Along with elite sport, the new group assumed responsibilities for mass physical culture. Spartak was an immense operation, with a large, well-rewarded bureaucracy that supported teams in various sports in the USSR’s largest cities. Nikolai Starostin, who had retired as a player, took on broadened responsibilities as head of the new group, but the focus of his attention remained on football. From the outset, Spartak was able to make use of Promkooperatsiia’s considerable resources to attract stars in a number of sports, which quickly generated criticism that the new group was buying athletes to achieve big-time victories while ignoring physical education.
In Paris on New Year’s Day 1936, a combined Dinamo-Spartak team lost 2–1 to the Racing Club de France, then one of Europe’s elite teams. The Soviets, who had reluctantly agreed to play during their off-season, impressed the Paris public and press. Despite this respectable result, Nikolai Starostin seized the opportunity to call on Kosarev and the leaders of Soviet sport to reorganize the domestic structure of the game along the lines of the professional leagues of Western Europe. Otherwise, he said they were “stewing in their own juices.” In a long memorandum, Starostin urged the replacement of the old city championships with a national league composed of the best clubs in the land. Consistent with the trend toward hierarchy that emerged during the late 1930s, the teams were staffed by well-paid professionals who were to play a home-and-away schedule stretching from May to early November. The new structure would, in his words, “legalize the professionalism that already exists in our football.” In May 1936, Soviet soccer opened a new era. The league, with seven first-division teams in Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev, was an overnight success, drawing millions of fans. Instantaneously, Spartak, strengthened by Promkooperatsiia’s generous support, came to rival Dinamo for preeminence.
Spartak also emerged as the favorite team of the male workingmen, who overwhelmingly constituted the capital’s football public. This fact was demonstrated by Spartak’s league-leading attendance, estimated for most matches by the national sports daily, Krasnyi sport. Accounts in the press, memoirs, and a flood of popular literature made it clear Spartak was the most popular Soviet club, ambiguously called the “people’s team.” Yet Spartak’s adoption by the Moscow public involved more than its sponsorship by a prominent civilian organization. During the Soviet period, published accounts acknowledged the team’s popularity but not the reasons for the intensity of the fans’ attachment. The matter does not even appear in archival documents. On the other hand, time spent in the stands of Soviet stadiums and the kitchens of Soviet citizens clearly revealed the depth and character of feeling surrounding Spartak. These locations were, in James Scott’s words, “the social sites of hidden transcripts.” Unique in Soviet history, these were places the “unofficial histories” of the game could be retold. 20
This was a topic millions of citizens knew about but did not write about. Only since 1989 do we have published accounts of these sentiments. In a 1999 article in the monthly Sportekspress zhurnal, Iurii Oleshchuk, a jurist, described rooting for Spartak in the 1930s as a pre-teen:
We lived in a large kommunal’ka [communal apartment]. We were all working class, and in the courtyard [dvor], the kids all proclaimed they were children of a single class. Our rooting interests were basically one half for Spartak and the rest for all the other clubs combined. In school it was the same . . . Why? Today I understand most clearly that Spartak was the home team [rodnaia komanda] of ordinary people [prostoliudi]. Why? The name had meaning for us. Then all the kids and even the grown-ups knew the name of the leader of the slave revolt in ancient Rome . . . How could the names of the other teams—Dinamo, TsDKA [Central House of the Red Army], Lokomotiv or Torpedo—compare?
Spartak’s sponsorship by Promkooperatsiia had a similar resonance. Although the organization was financially strong, for Oleshchuk it represented the ordinary people who labored under its wing. Even industrial workers, formally outside Promkooperatsiia’s institutional control with their own factory teams, identified with Spartak. Among the team’s supporters, only one club inspired hatred—Dinamo. “The relationship of Spartak’s fans to Dinamo,” wrote Oleshchuk, “was highly antagonistic. Dinamo represented the authorities: the police, the organs of state security, the hated privileged elites. They ate better. They dressed better, and they certainly didn’t live in kommunal’ki.” Matches between Spartak and Dinamo were, in Oleshchuk’s words, “wars on the field and in the stands. There were lots of fights among the fans. Really huge battles were prevented by separating the supporters. Spartak’s fans sat in the east tribune where the seats were cheaper, while Dinamo’s supporters occupied the aristocratic northern and southern stands.”
In a 1990 interview, the late lawyer and lifelong Spartak fan Boris Nazarov recalled, “As I was growing up, when Spartak played Dinamo or TsDKA, you could hear from the stands ‘kill the cops’ [bei militsiia] or ‘kill the soldiers’ [bei koniushek, literally, the grooms].” Hatred of the structures of force was central to the fans’ preference for Spartak. Conflating the army’s postwar strength with its less mighty pre-1941 status, Nazarov continued, “Through the draft, Dinamo and TsDKA could get the best players from the other teams. They served but never held a bayonet, never sat inside a tank, never worked in the organs of the Ministry of Interior . . . and the public knew this. Spartak lost a great deal because of this, and the fans hated the players who left.”
On a different note, Aksel’ Vartanian, Soviet soccer’s most informed student, places special emphasis on the Starostins’ relationship with a small group of the capital’s more worldly intellectuals: “Spartak was always popular. Some of it had to do with the Starostins, who had friends in the ‘bohemian world’ . . . This team somehow belonged to society. Dinamo was the Interior Ministry. They were hated. TsDKA was the army . . . Spartak was not a team that belonged to any single group. Maybe it was the Starostin brothers, maybe their friendships with the intelligentsia, but there was a kind of mark of democracy on the team. Giving your heart to Spartak, you hung on to some hope that they were somehow apart from their surroundings.” Alexander Vainshtein, who co-authored Nikolai Starostin’s 1989 memoir, offered a similar explanation to Nazarov’s. “The idea that Spartak is the ‘people’s team’ is a myth . . . They were the most popular team . . . Spartak was the most popular team for many reasons—first that it was not part of the structures of force.”
Disrespect for the authorities could be exacerbated by the experience of attending one of Spartak’s games. Getting to an important match on impossibly crowded transport did not enhance the serenity or obedience of spectators. Mounted police shoved the entering crowds into the stadium. Once inside, finding one’s assigned seat often proved impossible. Overcrowding for big games was the rule, and gate-crashers, usually young boys, numbered in the thousands. Oleshchuk describes the process with a certain fondness: “Only a fool tried to get past the ticket-takers alone . . . but there was another way—collectively. We had a reliable system . . . called the ‘steam engine.’ Thirty, forty, fifty of us without tickets formed a huge snake at one of the entrances and at an agreed-upon moment threw ourselves with incredible strength at the gate. The ticket-takers would scream, try to catch us with their hands, but they could not stop us.”
Order did not always prevail in the stands. In Krasnyi sport, the journalist and prerevolutionary soccer star Mikhail Davidovich Romm described a season-ending Spartak-TsDKA match on October 30, 1936, at the army’s smaller ground. “At half-time, spectators who had been behind the barriers began a general attack on the field. Thousands of people poured out like an avalanche and surrounded the playing surface like a tight wall that went right up to the sidelines, surrounded the goals and covered the corners turning the rectangle into an oval.” During the second half, the surging fans destroyed one of the goal posts. In the midst of this chaos, Spartak triumphed 3–1 to claim its first league championship. Thereafter, in every season before the war, newspaper reports described further incidents involving both Spartak players and fans. Given the team’s visibility, it is reasonable to ask if Spartak supporters were truly more rowdy than the fans of other clubs. Vartanian has shown that disorders were common and by no means restricted to Moscow. Yet press accounts involving hooliganism by Spartak fans and players did appear more often, although certain newspapers may well have singled them out for special attention.
The anti-authoritarian attitudes of Spartak fans and their accompanying rowdyism raise important questions about public acceptance of the regime. What were the political consequences of these choices and behaviors? Did hatred of the police and army represent a rejection of the authority of Stalinism, or were “the lads” (rebiata) just letting off steam? Recent work by Western and Russian historians has demonstrated considerable dissent, disorganization, and grumbling in Stalin’s Russia. These scholars reveal a broad divide between what many Soviet citizens described as a righteous “us” and a privileged “them.” Significant numbers of ordinary men and women made critical comments in a variety of ways and places. The 1930s were a time of scarcity and uncertainty, heightening the regime’s fear of the masses. Much of this complaining was monitored by the police. Therefore, it is interesting to note the stadium was one of the few places in the USSR where a person could shout “kill the cops” and not suffer serious consequences.
The reason for this enclave of comparative safety in a society otherwise characterized by extensive surveillance is not immediately clear. One finds no discussion of it in any Soviet-era source, published or archival. Yet a comparative example, taken out of context, may help illustrate the nature of the stadium and the peculiar social relations it creates, regardless of the political system. In his celebrated memoir of Arsenal fandom, the English writer Nick Hornby remembers his first match on the terraces of Highbury. What impressed him most was not the “Gunners'” play but “the way adults were allowed to shout the word, WANKER! [‘jerk off’] as loudly as they wanted without attracting any attention.” Could it be that Nazarov’s “kill the cops” was the semantic equivalent of Hornby’s “wanker”? Were “the lads” too focused on the field to take the words seriously, or did the crowded stadium guarantee anonymity?
A gathering of two or three people on the street could provoke police attention in Stalin’s time, but thousands crammed into the stands were another matter. Such was the popularity of soccer that the police had little choice but to permit matches at which large numbers of people were crowded together under circumstances that raised their emotions. The state’s structures of force found football posed tasks different from their usual charge. Many scholars have argued that Soviet citizens were unable to change the system, despite their dissatisfactions, because of the regime’s ability to atomize possible opposition through repression. In this regard, the state found soccer undermined the effects of atomization. It brought people together to watch an unpredictable spectacle, creating, in the process, both social relations and compelling topics of conversation. On the other hand, sport’s influence was limited. While it brought people together, it did not do so on a constant basis. Historically, the stadium has been neither a public nor a private space but what Clifford Geertz, following Erving Goffman, has called a “focused gathering.” For Geertz, both the Balinese cockfight and, by extension, a soccer match are neither disorderly crowds nor orderly groups but, consistent with sport’s liminality, something “in between.” The social relations created while going to the stadium, in the stands, and on the way home are complex but ephemeral. Although fans discuss events among themselves and read about them in the press, they possess nothing that can be called “power” until they are once more gathered together. The episodic character of these moments makes them different from ordinary life and creates the “space” for otherwise inadmissable, even dangerous, acts and utterances.
This does not mean Soviet soccer games were truly carnivalesque. Even during a match, rowdyism was the exception, and seating arrangements, with the privileged occupying more desirable locations, undermined the possibilities for cultural inversion. If not the sites of pure Bakhtinian carnival, the Soviet stadium was also not the Circus Maximus. Soviet soccer was not a safety valve consciously created by the state. If it had been, the authorities would not have spent so much time complaining, publicly and privately, about the fans’ bad behavior, nor would they have so heavily ascribed didactic aims to sport. The evidence of tension between subordinate and dominant groups is substantial. Still, it does not directly answer the question of whether the new Soviet labor force was “us” or “them.” Indeed, the very distinction may be too sharply drawn.
Finally, Spartak may have provoked “class” antagonism and hooliganism, but it was also popular for a far more conventional reason. The team was good. Oleshchuk, Nazarov, and thousands of other Moscow men date their love of Spartak from the summer of 1937. That July, an enormously talented touring team of Basque all-stars drawn from teams in the powerful Spanish league came to the USSR to raise funds for the embattled Spanish Republic. The visitors showed Soviet fans an astounding level of soccer never previously seen by ordinary citizens. Only at the end of their tour, tired and exhausted, did they lose to Spartak, which had been strengthened by the addition of four players from other teams, including the sensational young striker Grigorii Fedotov. With the score tied 2–2 at the half, the game turned on a dubious penalty awarded by the referee, who, as it happened, was a Spartak official. Perhaps realizing what was transpiring, the Basques played the role of grateful guests and lost 6–2. These nuances, however, were lost on young boys who had been taken to their first game by football-loving dads. All these kids knew was that Dinamo Moscow had lost to the Basques twice, while Spartak had emerged victorious.
In the summer of 1936, the struggle between Spartak and Dinamo moved from grassy fields to the ancient cobblestones of Red Square. In 1931, the State Sport Committee had reinvented the tradition of Physical Culture Day, a mammoth sports parade held each summer in Red Square. Thousands of tanned, fit male and female bodies marched in close unison. Mass gymnastic displays were complemented by floats and banners. If not identical, these events were certainly similar to sport holidays in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Extensively filmed and photographed, the parades of the 1930s were supposed to symbolize the orderliness and controlled character of Soviet sport for both domestic and foreign audiences. Not a sports event but rather political theater with sport as its theme, Physical Culture Day became the apotheosis of Stalinist body culture. Dinamo athletes were especially visible participants in these spectacles, and many of their floats were sculptures of arranged, immobile male and female bodies.
Spartak approached the parade differently. With Kosarev’s inspiration, Nikolai Starostin concocted a novel idea for the 1936 parade. Hundreds of Spartak athletes and officials sewed a giant green rug the size of a regulation soccer field. Each year, this Soviet precursor of Astroturf was rolled out onto Red Square and a game was played, creating an oasis of spontaneity in an otherwise highly controlled event. Until 1939, Dinamo refused to join Spartak in this moment of “real play.” Instead, Spartak’s starters took on their reserve squad in a match that could have ended at any moment had Stalin, no great soccer fan, become bored with the “spectacle” before him.
In taking such different approaches to this consciously created celebration, Spartak and Dinamo were demonstrating two different versions of body culture—the disciplined military, Olympic style of Dinamo versus the more spontaneous, professional-entertainment model of Spartak. These approaches affected the subsequent practices of the two groups in a variety of activities beyond the parades themselves. As already noted, the Soviets were torn between two models of sport, Olympism and professionalism. While they refused to take part in the Olympics, the leadership came to favor a non-commercial, competitive version of sport to be used for didactic purposes, particularly the goal of social improvement. The Dinamo Society, founded by the police, came to represent official Stalinist body culture, which embraced the statist Olympic model, if not its class and gender content. Indeed, the parades bear many similarities to the overblown opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. Before the war, Dinamo athletes dominated the multi-sport Spartakiads, festivals that made the “civilized” sports on the Olympic program available to working men and women in the best tradition of “rational recreation.” By contrast, Spartak took a more spontaneous approach to leisure and sporting spectacles, emphasizing games rather than parades. The events it stressed in its own practice, as Oleshchuk, Romm, and Nazarov show, were less didactic. The primary rituals for Spartak fans were such male celebrations as the pre-game metro or tram ride, the pushing and shoving to get to their seats, plus chanting, cheering, booing, drinking, and cursing—not to mention the occasional riot—practices more profane than sacred.
These differences were also consistent with the sponsorship of the two groups. Dinamo, supported by the secret police, was inextricably part of the state sector. Its athletes were to embody the virtues the regime sought to inculcate through sport—discipline, order, health, respect for authority, and social improvement.91 Dinamo was part of an organization subject to military discipline, and the bodies it presented were supposed to give the impression of discipline. By contrast, Spartak was sponsored by the retail trades, which made it more a part of society—a producer of sport spectacles for the historically beleaguered consumer sector. Promkooperatsiia had became a wealthy organization more than willing to use its money to buy top athletes, who were more often presented to the public in athletic contests as opposed to festivals.
In the international arena, Dinamo’s leaders, as well as its sportsmen and women, were active supporters of the state’s diplomatic goals. Despite some words and a few deeds to the contrary, Spartak would later prove a less enthusiastic carrier of the regime’s aims. Although the example is outside my chronological limit, it is revealing of pre-war attitudes that, when the USSR finally took part in the Olympic Games, in 1952, army and Dinamo athletes dominated Soviet teams. By comparison, Spartak provided only a handful of Olympians. Similarly, after the war, the army sport system and the Dinamo society became, in the words of the leading Western student of Soviet sport, the “organizational pillars” of the sports movement. In establishing this priority, the leadership was clearly responding to differences that had emerged during the 1930s.
The body cultures of the two groups were, in turn, tied to different types of masculinity. Here, too, differing constructions of manhood intensified their rivalry. For Soviet males, like most others, adopting sport, with its rules, organizational structures, and schedules, was part of becoming a modern urban man. During the course of the nineteenth century, both professional and Olympic sport had been constructed in Europe and the United States as male bastions, but each approach offered a different version of manhood. As we have seen, Spartak’s supporters practiced a Soviet version of an earlier British working-class masculinity that was often violent and little concerned with sportsmanship. As a group with a sense of grievance, winning, for these particular men, was very important. While Oleshchuk’s characterization of the games as “wars” is overstated, he does succeed in conveying the seriousness with which Spartak fans approached football. By contrast, Dinamo, despite its own supporters’ occasional lapses, offered a more respectable middle-class manliness. Their publicly obedient athletes were presented as objects for emulation. Finally, these different masculinities fostered different attitudes toward female sport. Again, the example, while postwar, is instructive. Dinamo and the army clubs paid lip service to women’s participation. Spartak, by contrast, proved largely indifferent. Thirteen of the forty female athletes on the first Soviet Olympic team at Helsinki were members of Dinamo. Only one came from Spartak. The society’s leaders cared most about football—a “real man’s game”—Soviet women had long been forbidden to play.
These examinations of the Spartak-Dinamo rivalry and the actions of their fans have been the necessary prelude to answering the question, raised at the outset, about the attitudes of the Soviet working class before the war. Despite the massive reduction of living standards that accompanied industrialization and collectivization, the party-state was not overthrown. Explanations have varied enormously, with consensus elusive. Soviet historians of labor, predictably, described an identifiable working class at the head of the march for “socialist construction.” Some Western scholars, most notably Kenneth Strauss and Robert Thurston, while eschewing crude Soviet class categories, also ascribed the regime’s survival to the integration, and subsequent contentment, of workers, despite struggle on the shop floor. Siegelbaum and Hiroaki Kuromiya found contingent and shifting worker identities, especially early on during industrialization. Others, most notably Donald Filtzer, stressed repression in the face of worker-management tensions. Stephen Kotkin, in his massive study of the new city of Magnitogorsk, detailed an accommodation, mediated by language, which combined quiescence with cynical manipulation of the system. A still different tack was taken by Gabor Rittersporn, who argued that Soviet workers were not a unified class but rather an “urban laboring mass,” lacking the cohesion to oppose the state.
By 1929, the prerevolutionary proletariat, which all but evaporated during the civil war, had been reconstituted. Subsequently, the demands of forced draft industrialization required massive numbers of new workers, who were primarily peasants and women. Soviet cities grew at an astronomical rate, creating enormous pressure on housing, food supply, and transit. Between 1929 and 1934, Moscow’s population had risen from 2.3 million to 3.6 million. Industrial labor comprised barely a quarter of Moscow’s diverse population. Official sources described some 823,400 Muscovites as factory workers by 1933. Another 649,900 fit into the ambiguous and highly heterogenous category of white-collar workers, called “employees” (sluzhashchie). In drawing conclusions about the attitudes of Moscow workers, it is important to connect the recent broader studies, which have revealed widespread dissent and grumbling, with the earlier, more focused work on labor. Can we be any more precise than the categories of “us” and “them”? To answer such questions, it would be best to have sources such as election results, public opinion surveys, and a free press, but in the absence of these types of direct evidence it is necessary to look elsewhere. Sport is one such place. The vast bulk of anecdotal material on pre-war soccer indicates that the audience was overwhelmingly working class and male. Memoirs, player biographies, and popular histories are unanimous on this point. While some white-collar workers must have followed the game, they do not appear in these accounts. Thus it is possible, when talking about pre-war Soviet football followers, to be more precise than “us” and “them.” Nevertheless, the evidence does not support abandoning all caution.
Moscow was not typical of the entire USSR, and not all workers followed soccer. It is particularly unlikely that the thousands of women and peasants who took up work in the capital became a large part of the soccer audience. Women’s involvement in pre-war football was largely limited to watching men watch other men play football. In the little remaining documentary footage on early soccer (roughly forty minutes), women do appear in the stands. Yet nearly all the matches captured on film were cup finals or other important games at comparatively well-policed Dinamo Stadium. Those females shown on screen were always stylishly dressed and usually young. They tended to sit together, and it is reasonable, given the prevailing patriarchy of the period, to think they may have been the wives or girlfriends of players, suggesting the absence of a female presence at most regular matches. Similarly, peasants, nearly all recent arrivals from the countryside, were, like peasants elsewhere in the world, little involved in the modern, urban phenomenon of sport. While it is likely that a portion of those who flocked to the capital during industrialization eventually took an interest in the game, the majority of recent migrants to the city did not. Older peasant leisure practices persisted despite residence in Moscow. Strolling and visiting were preferred to a specifically scheduled event like a soccer game, governed by poorly understood rules. The fictional hero of film and literature, Anton Kandidov, who went from melon-catching muzhik (peasant) to goalie for the Soviet national team, would have been exceptional, even if he were real.
While the paucity of solid empirical information requires care, it is clear that those workers who watched soccer had greater experience of urban life than the newcomers. The men who had followed the sport before the revolution and during the 1920s continued to do so into the late 1930s. Many of them had raised families and passed on a love of the game to sons. Additionally, several Soviet scholars have claimed that Moscow workers were becoming older and more skilled, a process that made them more likely to be drawn to the urban activity of sport. The shift in Moscow away from textiles toward metalworking can also be seen as a sign of an increasingly skilled work force. With the Third Five-Year Plan, announced in 1938, an even greater emphasis was placed on heavy industries, especially defense. The chaos of the First Five-Year Plan allowed little time for leisure, and the new recruits to the urban labor force were not highly trained. Yet, from the league’s formation in 1936 up to the war, the capital’s workers became more experienced, not only on the factory floor but in the ways of city life. They were beginning to fit the sociological profile of football audiences in other nations, particularly Great Britain, where the relatively skilled segments of the working class were more likely to be involved with sport. It should, however, be noted that the precise meaning of the term “skill” (kvalifikatsiia), as used by Soviet historians, is ambiguous.
To talk about Spartak and the working class requires a clear understanding of how we are using the term. Oleshchuk’s characterization of Moscow football supporters as one half for Spartak and one half for everyone else corresponds to the preponderance of anecdotal evidence. This conclusion is not challenged anywhere in the literature, in archival material or in personal recollections. Yet this does not mean Spartak’s following was socially and economically homogenous. Promkooperatsiia, Spartak’s sponsor, represented primarily service and trade workers. Between 1928 and 1932, it grew from roughly 600,000 members nationally to 1.6 million, while the percentage of workers involved in trade and distribution increased from 5.3 percent to 9.2 percent. Industrial laborers, who, as noted, were not a majority in 1930s Moscow, may well have had different views and interests, but many of them rooted for Spartak along with their less successful factory teams, founded and organized by plant managers. Thus the term “working class,” while still useful, is best understood here in the broadest sense to encompass thousands outside the factory, including construction, transport, and trade.
Despite these caveats, we can say that a significant portion of Moscow working males made one of the few free choices available to them, a choice that established, in a limited but still meaningful way, their independence from the regime. Yet the politics of this choice were far from clear, and it would be stretching the available evidence to claim the team’s following was either anticommunist or outspokenly oppositional. By the mid-1930s, worker grievances were numerous, and the labor shortage gave them considerable power on the factory floor. Still, this did not lead to ongoing organization. The secret police saw to that. Oleshchuk, Vartanian, Vainshtein, and others of their generation, when interviewed, stressed that Spartak supporters did not seek what some have recently called “regime change.” Yet these interviewees’ understanding of politics is limited to the policy struggles and competing ambitions at the pinnacle of the state and party structures. If they were not directly affecting state policy, Soviet soccer fans (not just those of Spartak) were still able to create the “chosen communities” described by Levon Abramian. The regime sought to use sport to inculcate values of health, punctuality, skill, and respect for authority. The state wished to see its “guardians of order” successful on the field and admired by the public. In a 1936 article in Krasnyi sport, I. I. Kharchenko, then head of the state sports committee, remarked that Dinamo, rather than Spartak, provided the best model for other sport societies. Yet support for Dinamo was not a goal mass repression alone could achieve. Chosen communities were just that. The people picked their own heroes. These “communities,” while not limited to the stadium, were as episodic as the “focused gatherings” of match day. They were also, to use Benedict Anderson’s now famous phrase, “imagined communities,” but without clear geographical boundaries.
During the late 1930s, male workers in Moscow used Spartak to make choices about their identities. To be sure, these choices were highly fluid, for, in the political context of the period, they could not have assumed an organized form. Nevertheless, by choosing Spartak and supporting them in less than orderly ways, thousands of Moscow men kept their distance from much around them that was distasteful, while maintaining a measure of personal dignity. This did not make Spartak, to use an anachronistic phrase, a “dissident” team. But the club’s independence and success displeased the leaders of the NKVD, who understood their competition involved “more than a game.” Everywhere, spectator sports have allowed people to carve out what Eric Dunning has called “enclaves of autonomy,” where “mass audiences” can evade the “goals of those who seek to control them.” Even in the highly repressive conditions of the purges, Moscow working men used soccer in just this way. They found in the sport’s liminality and spontaneity a way to demonstrate a measure of agency denied them in other parts of their lives.
The Spartak-Dinamo rivalry went beyond elite politics to include the politics of the everyday. There was substance to the differing styles. As such, the stakes were high. Was sport important? It was important enough for Dinamo’s police patrons to be outraged by Spartak’s success. When Spartak’s adaptation of Western tactical approaches was combined with their Western-style business model, the Starostins became suspect. They were accused of “running a bourgeois sports enterprise,” and there was a kernel of truth to the accusations. As Nikolai Starostin would later relate, Spartak did pay higher wages than other clubs, and he and his brothers were well rewarded for their many victories. Rumors of Spartak’s improprieties first appeared in the press in 1936. The Starostins were accused of buying and selling players, neglecting sports with military applications, and paying insufficient attention to political work—long common practices and certainly not criminal in any context other than that of the terror. Yet the sports world did not escape the purges. Hundreds of athletes and officials were arrested, and, by the summer of 1937, Nikolai expected to be taken away at any moment. His concern deepened soon thereafter. In September, Georgii and Serafim Znamenskii, the USSR’s most famous track stars, secretly denounced the Starostins to the minister of sport. They claimed Starostin had asked them to assist in currency speculation, and said Nikolai had used contacts in the military to get army soccer players mustered out early to play for Spartak. This latter charge was, in fact, true.In November, Georgii Znamenskii wrote, “Nikolai Starostin devotes his time, attention and funds only to football. He ignores the other sports. He allows only a few designated people to work with the soccer team. He acts personally for himself rather than being guided by the situation of the organization . . . This method is similar to that of an entrepreneur of a private sports club.”
Again, if these claims were plausible, it was because the Starostins felt this was the “normal” way to organize big-time sport. Here, they had an important patron in Alexander Kosarev, who believed entertainment under Communism should actually be entertaining. The Starostins were not isolated figures. Rather, they understood that they needed to have important friends in order to present sports entertainments to the public. Before big games, Nikolai distributed 1,000 free tickets to leading figures in the Moscow and national party organizations, and in Kosarev they had a powerful protector with close political and personal ties to N. I. Yezhov, the central organizer of the terror.
By late 1938, however, Yezhov had outlived his perverse usefulness. He was replaced by Lavrentii Beria, who set about arresting and executing Yezhov’s allies, including Kosarev. Beria sought to slow the whirlwind of repression —good for the nation but terrible for Spartak, which lost its strongest patron. Beria, a passionate fan and former player, cared deeply about the success of all the teams under Dinamo’s wing. He had not been pleased by Spartak’s league-cup “double” in 1938, and when Spartak looked to repeat the feat in 1939, he intervened directly in the cup competition to require Spartak to replay its disputed semi-final victory. When Spartak triumphed again, Beria tried a new way to “control” his rivals, seeking to have the Starostins arrested on many of the same charges that had emerged in 1937. In 1939, Vyacheslav Molotov, in his capacity as prime minister, refused to sign an arrest order, but three years later with the war on, Politburo member Georgii Malenkov did.
Why Beria succeeded in 1942 when he failed in 1939 has never been fully answered. Until now, all we have known about the Starostins’ fate has come from their side, but it appears part of the story has been omitted. According to their sentencing document (prigovor), all four Starostin brothers were given the relatively light sentence of ten years at hard labor for the clearly absurd political crimes of “anti-Soviet statements” and “doubts about Soviet victory in the war.” Yet the prosecutor also claimed that the Starostins had embezzled 160,000 rubles from the Spartak Society’s sporting goods store and Nikolai had exchanged illegally obtained food and vodka for draft exemptions. It would be easy to dismiss these charges as typically ridiculous, an attempt to make the Starostins appear to be common criminals. The document, after all, contains only accusations, not proof. But the specificity of the economic crimes compared to the vagueness of the political accusations suggests there may have been some substance to the criminal charges. Certainly, if the authorities had sought to smear the brothers, why were the criminal charges never made public? Even so sympathetic a figure as Alexander Vainshtein has doubts: “I’m sure Nikolai Petrovich didn’t tell the whole truth. There were various rumors going around . . . No one knows the whole truth. Basically the conflict was about their unusual popularity . . . I don’t think Beria had Starostin arrested because he wanted Dinamo to become champions. I think the irritation was about their popularity and independence.” Although unproven, the accusations are unsettling, as they contrast sharply with the Starostins’ postwar image of extreme probity.
Guilty or not, the brothers spent two years at secret police headquarters in Moscow, after which they were sent to labor camps. When they arrived at their destinations, they were met by local camp commandants who, unbeknownst to Beria, were so excited to have sport celebrities in their midst they invited the Starostins to coach local Dinamo teams in the lower and outer reaches of the Soviet minor leagues. The brothers were spared hard labor and allowed to live in their teams’ locker rooms rather than the brutal barracks. They continued to live in camps until 1948 and in exile until 1954. Their absence did not go unnoticed by the fans. In 1997, the eminent sportswriter Lev Filatov remembered the immediate postwar era when Spartak fell into football eclipse: “We looked upon the vegetating state of Spartak with sadness, quietly remembering the Starostin brothers, who, in our youthful imaginations, would not have permitted the hallowed club to fall into such disarray. But to speak publicly about it was dangerous. During those years, the lines in information guides that should have been imprinted with the Starostins’ names instead read ‘and others.'” The brothers finally came home to Moscow with the first and most privileged group of returnees. Their special status allowed them to resume their careers with little difficulty. Everyone connected with Spartak knew what had happened to them, and their days in the camps were discussed openly, but not publicly. Eventually, in 1964, Andrei wrote a popular memoir. In it, he stated that he and his brothers had been arrested in 1942 after “falseaccusations fabricated by enemies of the people.” Nikolai presided over Spartak until his death in 1996, all the while projecting an image of moral rectitude. Reviled in some quarters before the war, he died a beloved figure. The contrast between Starostin’s later propriety and the earlier rumors of corruption may disturb his fans and undermine his carefully crafted self-image, but these lapses should shock only those who would make of him a saint. Good people were capable of doing less than admirable things, and bad people occasionally did good. In the final analysis, this very ambiguity may tell us more than anything else about what it meant to have been human and lived in the USSR.
The same ambiguity applies to Spartak’s pre-war, male, working-class fan base. These men turn out to be neither uncritical supporters of the regime nor its innocent victims. Their identities may have been fluid, but it would also be wrong to see them as cynical chameleons, manipulating the system through “little tactics.” If anything, they were employing their own tactics to resist. Ultimately, their support for Spartak undermines the view that acceptance of the regime was strong and universal among Soviet workers. The team’s fans, to use Kotkin’s sporting discourse, “deployed” sport, among other things, as a “‘field of play’ in which people engaged the ‘rules of the game’ of urban life.” This was not domination and resignation but rather, as Stuart Hall has said, “contested terrain.” On the other hand, Spartak supporters did not go so far as to seek the overthrow of Communism. Oleshchuk recalls that he and his pals simultaneously thought Spartak great, Dinamo terrible, and Stalin an OK Joe. Instead of “us” and “them,” the tension was between two ways of being Soviet.
Oleshchuk’s statements about the Spartak-Dinamo rivalry may well indicate a Soviet-style “class struggle,” and there is little doubt that millions shared his resentments. Does this then mean that the category of class adequately explains their views? Western scholars who studied Soviet workers rightly sought to move beyond the rigidities of mechanically deployed class categories. Yet, as the doyen of historians of the USSR, Moshe Lewin, noted in responding to those views, class can be useful when employed judiciously, “if we drop any explicit or implicit claims that classes and ‘structures’ are immutable, if we accept that social realties can be, and often are, very fluid, then the concept of class becomes real and useful, but our work becomes more intricate because we have ceased to take class and class consciousness for granted.” Lewin’s approach to class consciousness differs considerably from the much-discussed but rarely existing variety Karl Marx described in capitalist contexts. Soviet workers found it difficult to act “for themselves,” but this did not mean the preliminary processes of identity formation were not in play. The tensions between laborers and elites were intense, but, with no Soviet ruling class of the Marxist type, this was not a classic proletarian-bourgeois confrontation, despite certain similarities. The broader Gramscian categories of subordinate and dominant social groups may better describe a struggle in which the subordinate were not completely powerless. The unwritten rules produced by the “chosen communities” of game day, along with the shared pleasures of fandom, provided ordinary people with feelings of strength and power. Despite their many difficulties, Soviet working men were not atomized in every part of their lives.
Nevertheless, one can well agree with those historians of the laboring masses who have questioned the predictive certainties of a materially oriented social history. They are also correct when noting that the nineteenth-century faith in the historically transformative power of the proletariat was not borne out by the maelstrom of the twentieth century’s first half. As a result, with workers no longer center stage, labor history has been moved to the margins, and an opportunity has been lost. Instead of looking in new places for answers to unresolved questions, the profession seems, rather, to have abandoned the study of labor. Yet, if workers are no longer the central players in a discredited master narrative, this is scarcely areason for ignoring them altogether. Instead, culture, especially popular culture, can, as it has in other cases, provide deep understanding of the lives of ordinarypeople.
The massively popular leisure activity of sport is particularly rich with possibilities. Not only can it expose cleavages of class, it also allows us to examine this historically constructed, but thankfully now contested, male entertainment to show us how those cleavages were embodied and gendered. In this essay, sports have provided a missing link, a different way of attacking an old problem. I have sought here not to look either at work or at play but at the relation of the one to the other. Like the intellectuals who founded it, the Bolshevik Party based its theory of history on production and never fully comprehended the ludic. Nor did the Soviet state succeed in using mass culture to control the citizenry. Even as the regime expended millions on sports infrastructure and personnel, its other actions continually privileged the mind while failing to comprehend the body. In much the same way, historians who ignore sport impose a hierarchy of significance rarely shared by their subjects. If big-time spectator sports have been an “enclave of autonomy,” then it was at just such times and places that people were most likely to reveal their true feelings. This is why Abramian remarked, “To be a fan . . . is to be gathered among others and to be free.” The positive emotions generated by this sphere of human activity may have been ephemeral, but millions of Soviet men grasped them with a passion generated by little else. Supporting Spartak may have been a small way of saying “no,” but if the gesture were small, it nonetheless spoke volumes.
Author’s note: The title of this article was suggested by Tony Mason, who also provided a helpful reading of an earlier draft. David Nasaw read repeated versions, as did Michael Bernstein. Louise McReynolds, Lewis Siegelbaum, Ronald Grigor Suny, Robert Moeller, Hasan Kayali, Eric Van Young, and John Hoberman all read the manuscript and all helped focus a piece that was, as some would say, “all over the pitch.” I am especially grateful to those usual suspects, anonymous readers, who were good enough to understand my goals while rigorously assisting me in reaching them. Ann Gorsuch, Gale Stokes, and Dan Orlovsky provided opportunities for me to expose early versions of this project to others. The masterful Wayne Wilson, as always, was largely responsible for the richness of my source base. Barbara Keys generously shared some of the fruits of her research with me and provided a great deal of insight. In Moscow, Leonid Weintraub led me through far too many archives. I am especially indebted to Aksel’ Vartanian, whose vast knowledge of Soviet soccer history is unsurpassed. He, too, has been a crucial guide to the archives. Vladimir Titorenko provided my usual home away from home. Irina Bykhovskaia of the Russian State Academy of Physical Culture has become a valued colleague. I am also grateful to Irina Grigorievna Zhilina of the academy’s library, who has provided me with many hard-to-obtain sources through the modern miracles of scanning and electronic mail. This project was funded exclusively by the Academic Senate of the University of California, San Diego. I am deeply grateful for their support. I am also grateful to my daughter, Elizabeth, who daily reminds me what soccer is supposed to be about.
A note on usage—in order to prevent repetition, I will shift between American and English usage of sport terminology. Thus “soccer” will be used synonymously with “football,” “game” with “match,” “shoes” with “boots,” “sports” with “sport,” etc.
Robert Edelman is a professor of Russian history and the history of sport at the University of California, San Diego, where he has been teaching since 1972, when he received his doctorate from Columbia University. A former sportswriter and radio announcer, Edelman is the author of Gentry Politics on the Eve of the Russian Revolution: The Nationalist Party, 1905–1917 (1980), Proletarian Peasants: The Revolution of 1905 in Russia’s Southwest (1987), and Serious Fun: A History of Spectator Sports in the USSR (1993), which won the annual book awards of the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles and the North American Society of Sports Historians. His articles have appeared in the Russian Review, Slavic Review, Journal of Modern History, Journal of Sports History, New York Times, History Today, and Hoop. Edelman has consulted on documentaries for HBO, PBS, ESPN, and CBS. He is currently working on a book about the history of Spartak and Moscow’s men before, during, and after Soviet power. He lives in Solana Beach, California, with three children, two dogs, and one wife.
1 The brothers’ names were Nikolai, Aleksandr, Andrei, and Petr. There were two sisters, Vera and Klavdia. This “stadium” was one of several such fields in the neighborhood during the 1920s. The present venue, called Krasnaia Presnia, is the only remaining facility to survive various waves of Soviet and post-Soviet urban renewal.
2 Nikolai Petrovich Starostin, Futbol skvoz’ gody (Moscow, 1989), 67, 86; Konstantin Esenin, Moskovskii futbol (Moscow, 1974); Eduard Nisenboim and Vladimir Rasinskii, Ot MKS do Spartaka (Moscow, 2000), 4–5.
3 James Riordan, Sport in Soviet Society: Development of Sport and Physical Education in Russia and the USSR (Cambridge, 1977), 93. Sport clubs were actually called “sport societies.” These were national organizations with branches in the USSR’s major cities. They supported teams in a wide variety of sports. Thus all three bits of information were usually included in identifying a team, as in Dinamo Moscow (hockey), Dinamo Kiev (football), and Spartak Leningrad (basketball).
4 Yuri Oleshchuk, “Mistika Spartaka,” Sportekspress zhurnal, no. 11 (1999): 10–14; Tony Mason, Association Football and English Society, 1863–1915 (Sussex, 1980), 138–74; Bill Murray, The World’s Game: A History of Soccer (Urbana, Ill., 1996), 1–41. Quote is from Simon Kuper, Football against the Enemy (London, 1994), 40.
5 Lewis Siegelbaum and Ronald Grigor Suny, eds., Making Workers Soviet (Ithaca, N.Y., 1994), 8. During the 1980s, guided by the various social history methodologies of the 1960s and skeptical of the rigid class analysis of Soviet scholars, Western researchers sought new ways of making sense out of a formation that confounded many of the received notions of labor history. Among the major contributions were William Chase, Workers, Society and the Soviet State: Labor and Life in Moscow, 1918–1929 (Urbana, Ill., 1987); Hiroaki Kuromiya, Stalin’s Industrial Revolution: Politics and Workers, 1928–1932 (Cambridge, 1988); Siegelbaum, Stakhanovism and the Politics of Productivity in the USSR, 1935–1941 (Cambridge, 1988); Donald Filtzer, Soviet Workers and Stalinist Industrialization: The Formation of Modern Soviet Production Relations, 1928–1941 (London, 1986); Gabor Rittersporn, Stalinist Simplifications and Soviet Complications: Social Tensions and Political Conflicts in the USSR, 1933–1953 (Chur, 1991); Vladimir Andrle, Workers in Stalinist Russia: Industrialization and Social Change in a Planned Economy (New York, 1988). The 1994 publication of the essay collection edited by Siegelbaum and Suny, in which many of these authors, along with Moshe Lewin, Diane Koenker, Sheila Fitzpatrick, Victoria Bonnell, Chris Ward, and Daniel Orlovsky, took part, raised difficult questions about the methods and certainties of a materially based labor history. Others, following the methodological leads of Gareth Steadman-Jones and William H. Sewell, stressed the importance of language and suggested that the events of the twentieth century had diminished, if not erased, the historical importance of the working class. It seemed a new agenda had been set, but, by and large, the torch was not picked up, as scholarly interest in labor history waned throughout the profession. Since then, several works have, nevertheless, appeared that deal with workers both directly and indirectly. Kenneth M. Strauss, Factory and Community in Stalin’s Russia: The Making of an Industrial Working Class (Pittsburgh, 1997), is most closely focused on industrial workers and argues for their cohesion and relative contentment. Stephen Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization (Berkeley, Calif., 1995), is a broad examination of a newly created factory town. Kotkin deals extensively but not entirely with workers, whom he sees developing elaborate, linguistically sophisticated coping strategies to get ahead and get along. Robert Thurston, Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934–1941 (New Haven, Conn., 1996), also looks at other groups than workers, but posits a high degree of worker power, especially on the factory floor. David Hoffmann looks at peasants who came to Moscow in the 1930s, became workers, but retained many peasant ways. Of these more recent books, Hoffmann describes the lowest level of happiness with the regime; Peasant Metropolis: Social Identities in Moscow, 1929–1941 (Ithaca, 1994).
6 In Europe and most of Latin America, soccer leagues are divided into various divisions. Teams that finish at or near the bottom of the elite division are relegated to the next lower division, and teams at or near the top of the next lower division are promoted. This system is followed at the lower divisions as well. Thus a permanently terrible team that always finishes last is not possible in most leagues. The price of poor play is extremely high. On early baseball, see Elliot Gorn and Warren Goldstein, A Brief History of American Sports (New York, 1993), 114–28.
7 On soccer and identity, see Anthony King, “New Directors, Customers and Fans: The Transformation of English Football in the 1990’s,” Sociology of Sport Journal, no. 14 (1997): 236. “[F]ootball fandom is centrally bound up with issues of identity formation. Because fans express their identities and self-understandings through the club, and, therefore, simultaneously define themselves in terms of football, the attachment to the football club is particularly strong.” On the close connections between teams and communities during the origins of soccer, see Bill Murray, Football: A History of the World Game (Aldershot, 1994), 1–50; Christiane Eisenberg, “Football in Germany: Beginnings, 1900–1914,” International Journal of the History of Sport 8, no. 2 (1991): 205–20; Heiner Gillmeister, “The Fate of Little Franz and Big Franz: The Foundation of Bayern Munich FC,” Soccer and Society 1, no. 2 (Summer 2000): 80–106; Rogan Taylor, Football and Its Fans: Supporters and Their Relations with the Game, 1885–1985 (Leicester, 1992), 3–13; Richard Holt, Sport and the British: A Modern History (Oxford, 1989); James Walvin, Football and the Decline of Britain (London, 1986), 44–56; Dave Russell, Football and the English: A Social History of Association Football in England, 1863–1995 (Preston, 1997), 55–67; Charles Korr, West Ham United: The Making of a Football Club (Urbana, Ill., 1986), 1–17; Chris Bethell and David Sullivan, Millwall Football Club, 1885–1939 (Stroud, 1999), 5–8; Pierre Lanfranchi, “Bologna: The Team That Shook the World,” International Journal of the History of Sport 8, no. 3 (December 1991): 336–46; John Allan, The Story of Rangers: Fifty Years of Football, 1873–1923, 2d edn. (Westcliff-on-Sea, 1996), 9–19; Tom Campbell and Pat Woods, Dreams and Songs to Sing: A New History of Celtic (Edinburgh, 1996), 7–15.
8 Nicholas B. Dirks, Geoff Eley, and Sherry B. Ortner, eds., “Introduction,” Culture/Power/History: A Reader in Contemporary Social Theory (Princeton, N.J., 1994), 4–5. See also John Hargreaves, Sport, Culture and Power: A Social and Historical Analysis of Sports in Britain (Cambridge, 1986), 220.
9 Kuper, Football against the Enemy, 46. Abramian’s scholarship is on primitive and ancient festival; see Levon Abramian, Pervobytnyi prazdnik i mifologiia (Yerevan, 1983), 11–14, 31–38.
10 Pierre Bourdieu, “Program for a Sociology of Sport,” Sociology of Sport Journal, no. 5 (1988): 160; see also Bourdieu, The Logic of Practice (Stanford, Calif., 1990), 160; and Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (Cambridge, Mass., 1984), 214. On Bourdieu, see Susan Brownell, Training the Body for China: Sports in the Moral Order of the People’s Republic (Chicago, 1995), 11.
11 On the anti-somatic bias of the Russian and Soviet intelligentsias, see Irina Bykhovskaia, Homo somatikos: Aksologiia chelovecheskogo tela (Moscow, 2000), 17. On the ignoring of the body in sociology, see Bryan Turner, The Body and Society: Explorations in Social Theory, 2d edn. (London, 1996), 67. In recent times, much of the credit for placing the body at the center of scholarly concerns belongs to Michel Foucault. On Foucault in the context of the body, sport and politics, see Richard Gruneau, “The Critique of Sport in Modernity: Theorising, Power, Culture and the Politics of the Body,” in The Sports Process: A Comparative and Developmental Approach, Eric Dunning, Joseph Maguire, and Robert Pearson, eds. (Urbana, Ill., 1993), 85–105. On taking cues from fellow intellectuals in Russia, see Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times;Soviet Russia in the 1930s (Oxford, 1999), 1–13. See also Riordan, Sport in Soviet Society, 44–45. He attempts to find a few intellectuals who evinced a belief in the unity of mind and body, and he names V. G. Belinskii, N. G. Chernyshevskii, N. A. Dobroliubov, Anton Chekhov, and Leo Tolstoy as figures who believed people had to develop all aspects of their being. There was something of a disconnect between the intelligentsia and those who wrote and taught about physical culture and the body. The most important of these figures before the revolution was Petr Lesgaft, who evinced little interest in the politics of the body and less in the traditional problems tackled by the intelligentsia. Nor is there much evidence of intellectuals demonstrating great interest in the work of Lesgaft. Riordan, 47–53.
12 Brownell, Training the Body for China, 11. On body culture, see also Thomas Laqueur and Catherine Gallagher, eds., The Making of the Modern Body: Sexuality and Society in the Nineteenth Century (Berkeley, Calif., 1987); Henning Eichberg, Body Cultures: Essays on Sport, Space and Identity, John Bale and Chris Philo, eds. (London, 1998); Mike Featherstone and Bryan S. Turner, eds., The Body: Social Process and Cultural Theory (London, 1991); Bourdieu, Distinction, 66–79; Brownell, 12; Karen Petrone, Life Has Become More Joyous, Comrades: Celebrations in the Time of Stalin (Bloomington, Ind., 2000), 24, 31–34. For a photographic record of the ways bodies were displayed in the celebrations about which Petrone writes, see A Pageant of Youth (Moscow, 1939).
13 Eric Dunning, “Sport as a Male Preserve: Notes on the Social Sources of Masculine Identity and Its Transformations,” in Women, Sport and Culture, Susan Birell and Cheryl Cole, eds. (Urbana, Ill., 1994), 163–79; R. W. Connell, Masculinities: Knowledge, Power and Social Change (Berkeley, Calif., 1995), 56; Holt, Sport and the British, 8; Gale Bederman, Manliness and Civilization (Chicago, 1996), 7. On sport as a marker of modern masculinity, see Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (St. Paul, Minn., 1995), 93; John Hoberman, Sport and Political Ideology (Austin, Tex., 1984), 11. Concerning class-based versions of masculinity, see Richard Gruneau and David Whitson, Hockey Night in Canada: Sport, Identities and Cultural Politics (Toronto, 1993), 192–96; John Nauright and Timothy Chandler, eds., Making Men: Rugby and Masculine Identity (London, 1996), 32; Gorn and Goldstein, Brief History of American Sports, 94; Eric Dunning and Kenneth Sheard, Barbarians, Gentlemen and Players: A Sociological Study of the Development of Rugby Football (New York, 1979), 175.
14 Andrei Starostin, Povest’ o futbole (Moscow, 1973), 54. Other works by Andrei Starostin, mostly memoiristic, include Bol’shoi futbol (Moscow, 1964); Vstrechi na futbol’nom orbite (Moscow, 1978); and Flagman futbola (Moscow, 1988).
15 Laura Engelstein, Moscow, 1905: Working-Class Organization and Political Conflict (Stanford, Calif., 1982), 215–20; Diane Koenker, Moscow Workers and the 1917 Revolution (Princeton, N.J., 1981), 20; Timothy Colton, Moscow, Governing the Socialist Metropolis (Cambridge, Mass., 1995), 65, 73.
16 Mikhail Romm, Ia boleiu za Spartak (Alma-Ata, 1965), 123; Andrei Starostin, Povest’, 8; Riordan, Sport in Soviet Society, 9–41; Victor Peppard, “The Beginnings of Russian Soccer,” Stadion 8–9 (1982–83): 159; Aksel’ Vartanian, Sto let rossiskomu futbolu (Moscow, 1997), 23; Esenin, Moskovskii futbol, 14–16; Peter Frykholm, “Soccer and Social Identity in Pre-Revolutionary Moscow,” Journal of Sport History 24, no. 2 (Summer 1997): 143–54. On soccer in Spain and Latin America, see Jimmy Burns, Barca: A People’s Passion (London, 1999), 70–96; Tony Mason, Passion of the People? Football in South America (London, 1995), 1–7.
17 Nikolai Starostin, Futbol skvoz’ gody, 25; Albert Starodubtsev, “Pervye shagi,” Sportekspress zhurnal, no. 10 (1999): 38–40; Andrei Starostin, Bol’shoi, 13; Sovetskii sport, October 25, 1957, May 17, 1958; Yuri Korshak, Staryi, staryi futbol (Moscow, 1975), 105–11. The sport actually caught on first in the suburban dacha (summer house) regions around Moscow.
18 Russkii sport, January 15, 1912; Korshak, Staryi, staryi futbol, 105.
19 Vartanian, Sto let, 23; Esenin, Moskovskii futbol, 14–15.
20 K sportu, January 12, 1913, March 10, 1913, March 31, 1913, April 28, 1913, June 30, 1913; Nikolai Starostin, Futbol skvoz’ gody, 88, 131; Andrei Starostin, Povest’, 4, 9, 14. The enormous Khodynka field in the northwest part of the city was a big site of Sunday pick-up games. Players came from all over Moscow, many from the Presnia. See also Vartanian, Sto let, 44–45; Anatoly Akimov, Zapiski Vratar’ia (Moscow, 1968), 5; Leonid Gorianov, Ozhivshchie legendy (Moscow, 1969), 158; and Gorianov, Kolumby Moskovskogo Futbola (Moscow, 1983), 76–123; Starodubtsev, “Pervye shagi,” 40; V. V. Frolov, Futbol v SSSR, Spravochnik (Moscow, 1951), 8; M. Martynov, Liubimaia igra (Moscow, 1955), 2.
21 Gorianov, Ozhivshchie legendy, 129–32; Romm, Ia boleiu za Spartak, 15.
22 Nisenboim and Rasinskii, Ot MKS do Spartaka, 3; E. Kirichenko, Moskva: Pamiatniki arkhitektury, 1830–1910-kh godov (Moscow, 1977), 8, 37; Engelstein, Moscow, 1905, 48.
23 Joseph Bradley, Muzhik and Muscovite: Urbanization in Late Imperial Russia (Berkeley, Calif., 1985), 4, 56, 139. Seventy percent of the Presnia’s residents were recent migrants from the countryside. The district ranked eighth of seventeen districts in rural emigrants. Most came from provinces west of the city. The presence of the nearby Alexandrovskii railroad station made the Presnia a popular jumping-off point for the newly arrived.
24 Strauss, Factory and Community, 33.
25 Robert Thurston, Liberal City, Conservative State: Moscow and Russia’s Urban Crisis, 1906–1914 (Oxford, 1987), 22; Akademia Nauk, Institut Istorii SSSR, Istoriia moskovskikh rabochikh (Moscow, 1983), 139; Victoria Bonnell, Roots of Rebellion (Berkeley, Calif., 1983), 25–45.
26 Engelstein, Moscow, 1905, 49.
27 Andrei Starostin, Povest’, 8; Nikolai Starostin, Moi futbol’nye gody (Moscow, 1986), 11.
28 Nikolai Starostin, Futbol skvoz’ gody, 12.
29 There has been much debate about Nikolai Starostin’s birth date. Most official sources give 1902 as the year of birth, but unofficial rumors often put the date earlier. In the sentencing document (prigovor) that sent Starostin, his brothers, and several friends to hard labor in the camps, the police give his birth date as 1898. The earlier year makes a number of important moments in Nikolai Starostin’s lifetime more plausible. This is particularly true for the year of his debut in organized soccer for the Russian Gymnastic Society, which took place, as best as can be calculated, in 1916. Here, the difference is significant. Were he born in 1902, his debut would have taken place at the age of fourteen, not likely. On the other hand, eighteen would be a normal time in life to start play at what then passed for the elite level in Russia. Some of the uncertainty may be due to the fact that Nikolai was born in the family’s native village in Pskov Gubernia, where recordkeeping may have been far less precise than in Moscow, where the rest of the siblings were born. See Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Rossiskii Federatsii (hereafter, GARF), fond 7583, opis’ 60, delo 4105, listy 1–2; Nikolai Starostin, Zvezdy bol’shogo futbola (Moscow, 1967), 67, 140. There were numerous sets of brothers who played soccer in the Presnia. The most famous were the four Kannunikovs, particularly Pavel, and the three Artemevs, especially Ivan.
30 Okt’iabr na krasnoi presne, vospominania k X godovshchine (Moscow, 1927), 5, 8, 12, 13, 30.
31 Riordan, Sport in Soviet Society, 62.
32 Andrei Starostin, Povest’, 87.
33 Nisenboim and Rasinskii, Ot MKS do Spartaka, 4; S. Lapitskaia, Byt rabochikh trekhgornoi manufaktury (Moscow, 1935), 193. See also the fairly minimalist reports on sport and physical culture of the Krasnopresenskii Region Executive Committee of the Party, in Tsentral’nyi Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Obshchestvennykh Dvizhenii Moskvy (hereafter, TsGAODM), f.99, op.1, d.88, l.33; TsGAODM, f.69, op.1, d.170, ll.2, 15.
34 Riordan, Sport in Soviet Society, 62.
35 John MacAloon, This Great Symbol: Pierre de Coubertin and the Origins of the Modern Olympic Games (Chicago, 1981), 43–82; Gruneau, “Critique of Sport,” 85.
36 John Hoberman, “Toward a Theory of Olympic Internationalism,” Journal of Sport History 22, no. 1 (Spring 1995): 1–37.
37 Krasnyi sport, September 25, 1927; Vechernaia Moskva, May 20, 1929, reported 100,000 attended the opening program of the Moscow league’s spring season.
38 Robert Edelman, Serious Fun: A History of Spectator Sports in the USSR (Oxford, 1993), 55.
39 Nikolai Starostin, Zvezdy, 41.
40 Nisenboim and Rasinskii, Ot MKS do Spartaka, 28, 32, 39, 45. The practice of scheduling large numbers of friendlies was also typical of British soccer in the 1880s before the creation of a truly national league, which provided a full schedule of fixtures for teams. Kalendar’osennikh sorevnovanii na pervenstvo gor. Moskvy po futbolu, sezon 1924 g. (Moscow, n.d.).
41 The army and Dinamo teams were also accused of using the games for commercial purposes. Anti-commercial elements in the hierarchies of both sponsoring organizations reduced these practices, but, by contrast, none of the future Spartak’s sponsors sought to control the Starostins’ money-making activities. Vechernaia Moskva, August 6, 1929, reported, “The basic goal of the majority of these football journeys is to make money. They earn their money, divide it up and go home.”
42 Nikolai Starostin, Futbol skvoz’ gody, 21.
43 Esenin, Moskovskii futbol, 149; Nikolai Starostin, Zvezdy, 84.
44 This was not the case with Ivan Artemev, who left Krasnaia Presnia to join Dinamo in 1923. Various accounts give different reasons for his leaving. Nikolai Starostin, Futbol skvoz’ gody, 141; Gorianov, Ozhivshchie legendy, 179. In his 1986 work, Nikolai Starostin, Moi futbol’nye gody, 11, said he became captain when Artemev left. In 1989, Starostin said he was the captain who did not name Artemev to the side, which was the reason Artemev gave for leaving. My larger point here is to question the accuracy of Starostin’s accounts.
45 The army team had evolved out of the civil war creation known as Vsevobuch. The team originally was called OPPV. In 1928, it became TsDKA (Tsentral’nyi Dom Krasnoi Armii); Esenin, Moskovskii futbol, 19; Nisenboim and Rasinskii, Ot MKS do Spartaka, 34.
46 Esenin, Moskovskii futbol, 10; Nisenboim and Rasinskii, Ot MKS do Spartaka, 34. The original Krasnaia Presnia stadium was given to the team from the huge Trekhgornaia (formerly Prokhorov) textile works.
47 Sovetskii sport, March 26, 1946; V. I. Vinokurov, Dinamo Moskva ’67 (Moscow, 1968), 11; Krasnyi sport, May 1, 1936.
48 The idea for a Spartak stadium was first raised at the highest political levels in 1936. The matter went nowhere and was raised again in 1948. See Aksel’ Vartanian, “Stadion dlia Spartaka: Istoriia nachalas’ v 1936 godu,” Sportekspress, July 9, 2001.
49 Nisenboim and Rasinskii, Ot MKS do Spartaka, 41, 47–67; Krasnyi sport, May 12, 1928, June 20 and 23, 1928; Romm, Ia boleiu za Spartak, 86–87; Siegelbaum, Stakhanovism, 16; Akimov, Zapiski Vratar’ia, 8; Esenin, Moskovskii futbol, 46; Sovetskii sport, February 13, 1970; Izvestiia, July 12, 1937.
50 According to Nikolai Starostin, 15 percent of Promkooperatsiia revenues went to sport once Spartak was established. Nikolai Starostin, interview with the author, Moscow, September 25, 1990. Promkooperatsiia was part of the Ministry of Trade run by Anastas Mikoyan, who was adept at providing a measure of autonomy for Promkooperatsiia to dispose of its funds as it wished. Nikolai Starostin, Futbol skvoz’ gody, 42.
51 Nikolai Starostin, interview; Futbol skvoz’ gody, 24.
52 In a 1986 documentary on Spartak, Andrei and Nikolai disagreed on the source of the name. Rossiskii Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Kinomatografii (hereafter, RGAK), reel no. 1–30605–1. In truth, the name was not original even in the Russian context. A powerful sports club founded in Leningrad in 1922 had been called Spartak. There was even a Spartak Nizhny Novgorod. Vartanian, Sto let, 25. Nikolai had been to Germany and played against worker sports clubs named for the Spartacist League. The Olympic-style sports festivals held in the USSR were called Spartakiads.
53 V. V. Radionov, ed., Rossiskii futbol za 100 let (Moscow, 1997), 491; Andrei Starostin, Povest’, 92.
54 Nisenboim and Rasinskii, Ot MKS do Spartaka, 52–53; GARF, f.7576, op.13, d.14, ll.7, 19, 24.
55 The Politburo agreed to the match less than two weeks before it was scheduled. Rossiskii Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Sotsial’no-Politicheskoi Istorii (hereafter, RGASPI), f.17, op.3, d.974, l.11, December 21, 1935. They refused to permit a return match in Moscow later that year. RGASPI, f.17, op.114, d.606, l.116, May 26, 1936.
56 Before the matter reached the Politburo, it had been hotly debated within Soviet soccer circles. See M. Iakushin, Vechnaia taina futbola (Moscow, 1988), 50–51; Andrei Starostin, Povest’, 134; Akimov, Zapiski Vratar’ia, 34.
57 Barbara Keys, “The Dictatorship of Sport: Nationalism, Internationalism and Mass Culture in the 1930s” (PhD dissertation, Harvard University, 2001), 228–31. On professionalism, see Lev Filatov, “Bol’shoi futbol v zone lzheliubitel’stva,” Fizkul’tura i sport, no. 6 (1988): 6–7.
58 GARF, f.7576, op.13, d.15, l.1. There were four divisions in all. The lower divisions were larger; Riordan, Sport in Soviet Society, 127. The structure of the league, especially the first division, changed from season to season. By 1938, the first division (called group A) included twenty-six teams; the next year it was reduced to fourteen. The first year, the league was divided into spring and fall seasons, with Dinamo winning in the spring and Spartak in the fall. Thereafter, Dinamo was champion in 1937 and 1940. Spartak won the league-cup double in 1938 and 1939. The Spartak players divided 10,000 rubles for their victory in 1936. GARF, f.7576, op.13, d.14, l.16.
59 We do not have official and universal attendance figures, but the journalists’ estimates give a good idea of popularity. When Dinamo and Spartak met at the 55,000-place (not seat) Dinamo Stadium, they regularly overflowed what turns out to have been not a mammoth structure. Sovetskii sport, March 26, 1949. Five years ago, the 55,000 bench places were replaced by a mere 36,000 plastic seats. Crowds at Dinamo for the biggest games varied from 60,000 to 90,000. Izvestiia, September 22, 1936, July 9, 1937, September 15, 1938, June 22, 1939; Krasnyi sport, August 25, 1938. The real differences came when Spartak or Dinamo entertained a weaker provincial team. Games between Traktor Stalingrad and Spartak, for example, could draw between 25,000 and 35,000, depending on weather. Dinamo games in Moscow with the same opponent might draw 20,000 to 25,000. Krasnyi sport, November 19, 1938. The figures are more spotty for games outside the capital, but Spartak appears to have outdrawn Dinamo on the road. Krasnyi sport, August 13, 1938, June 19, 1940.
60 While there was no book-length account of Spartak written in the 1930s, the 1960s and 1970s saw several accounts that discussed pre-war events, among these, Martyn Merzhanov, Igraet Spartak (Moscow, 1963); Konstantin Esenin, Spartak Moskva (Moscow, 1974); as well as a large section of his Moskovskii futbol. See also Romm, Ia boleiu za Spartak.
61 By this phrase, Scott means that the sites of hidden transcripts “are those locations in which the unspoken riposte, stifled anger, and bitten tongues created by relations of domination find a vehement, full-throated expression. It follows that the hidden transcript will be least inhibited when two conditions are fulfilled: first, when it is voiced in a sequestered social site where the control, the surveillance, and repression of the dominant are least able to reach, and second, when this sequestered milieu composed entirely of close confidants who share similar experiences of domination.” Of the two sites mentioned in my text, clearly the kitchen comes closer to Scott’s definition. The stadium is more problematic. It does bring together “close confidants and like-minded people,” and the anonymity of the large, emotionally charged crowd made surveillance difficult. Still, most of Scott’s subjects were rural dwellers, and many of them can be described as pre-modern. Hidden transcript takes on perhaps more necessity when applied to urban dwellers in a modernizing police state. While hidden transcripts can explain a great deal, they do frustrate historians who would prefer to see some sort of contemporaneous written record. After more than a decade of searching, I have not come across a contemporaneous written account about Spartak that details what everyone knew to be the reason for the team’s popularity. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (New Haven, Conn., 1990), 120. See also Peeter Tulviste and James Wertsch, “Official and Unofficial Histories: The Case of Estonia,” Journal of Narrative and Life History 4, no. 4 (1995): 311–29. I am grateful to my colleague, Stefan Tanaka, for bringing this work to my attention. As in the case of Spartak, all of Tulviste and Wertsch’s unofficial histories came either from interviews or post-1991 accounts.
62 I have been going to the USSR since 1965 and since that time have attended scores of games at which I have had scores of conversations with fans who, knowing I was American, openly discussed their love of Spartak and hatred of Dinamo. Had I known at the times of these conversations I would be writing on the subject some thirty years later, I would have recorded their words in some manner, but at that time sport was not considered a legitimate subject for scholarly inquiry.
63 Oleshchuk, “Mistika Spartaka,” 10. All three quotes are from the same page. Andrei Starostin noted the same tendency of Spartak fans to sit in the western stand of Dinamo; Starostin, Bol’shoi, 45.
64 The word bit’ here has the meaning of beat with one’s fists, perhaps kill, rather than beat, that is, defeat in an athletic contest.
65 Boris Lavrentievich Nazarov, interview with the author, Moscow, October 6, 1990.
66 Aksel’ Vartanian, interview with the author, Moscow, December 6, 1999. It is important to remember that the Starostins’ relationships with a small circle of Moscow creative intellectuals did not mean that the team had a significant following of intellectuals. Nor did it mean that intellectuals were necessarily fans of Spartak. In fact, sport as a passion among the intelligentsia was still very limited.
67 Alexander Vainshtein, interview with the author, Moscow, December 8, 1999. Vainshtein stated that Spartak had its own support at the highest of institutional levels, especially in the party. In that sense, he said, calling them the people’s team made no sense, since the people did not run the team. Of course, as I have noted in the introduction, nowhere in the world of elite sport do ordinary people run any team. Vainshtein was also far more skeptical than Vartanian about the “bohemian” influence on Andrei Starostin, claiming that Nikolai would berate Andrei (then still playing) for hanging out with people who would ruin his game. See also Lev Filatov, “Teatr Andreia Starostina vospominanii kumira,” Fizkul’tura i sport, no. 5 (1995): 31–32.
68 Yuri Oleshchuk, “Fanaty Vremen Bobrova,” Sportekpress zhurnal, no. 10 (1999): 86.
69 Krasnyi sport, November 1, 1936. This account is repeated in Akimov, Zapiski Vratar’ia, 59–62.
70 This was for the fall season. Dinamo had won in the spring.
71 Izvestiia, May 6, 1940; Krasnyi sport, April 15, 1937, September 3, 1938, June 12, 1939, July 2, 1940.
72 Aksel’ Vartanian, “Draki pri sotsializme,” Sportekspress futbol, no. 27 (1999): 32–35. For a detailed report on disorders in 1935, see GARF, f.7576, op.13, 108, ll.63–69, 77, 79.
73 Sarah Davies, Popular Opinion in Stalin’s Russia: Terror, Propaganda and Dissent (Cambridge, 1997); Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism; Rittersporn, Stalinist Simplifications; Natalia Lebina, Povsednevnaia Zhizn’ Sovetskogo Goroda: Normy i Anomalii (St. Petersburg, 1999); Elena Osokina, Our Daily Bread: Socialist Distribution and the Art of Survival in Stalin’s Russia, 1927–1941 (Armonk, N.Y., 2001).
74 Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism, 42–50.
75 Nick Hornby, Fever Pitch (London, 1997), 20.
76 Vartanian, interview.
77 Filtzer, Soviet Workers and Stalinist Industrialization, 1, 8, 255.
78 Clifford Geertz, “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cock Fight,” in Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (New York, 1973), 434.
79 Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, Helen Iswolsky, trans. (Cambridge, Mass., 1968).
80 The Basques had beaten Racing twice the previous year in friendlies; see P. Prybylovskii, Trenery bol’shogo futbola (Moscow, 1980), 35. The Basques received $5,000 US from a special Politburo fund for the tour. RGASPI, f.17, op.162, d.21, l.57. Permission for the tour was finally given shortly before the Basques’ arrival. RGASPI, f.17, op.3, d.987, l.131.
81 Soon after the famous triumph over the Basques, Kosarev sent Spartak on a tour of Europe, where they won further glory at the Workers’ Olympiad in Antwerp and at a special tournament connected with the Paris International Exposition. Nikolai Starostin, Futbol skvoz’ gody, 37–40. Starostin makes much of the fact that the referee in the match against the Basques, Kosmachev, an official of the Spartak Society, was banned from the game for his “favoring” of Spartak. Yet Starostin did not mention the ban was temporary, not, as he implied, permanent, nor does he state clearly that many felt Kosmachev did indeed favor Spartak.
82 Physical culture displays had been part of parades marking other holidays, most notably May Day. There had been sports holidays and demonstrations of various sorts before 1931. Additionally, the holiday was celebrated throughout the USSR on the main square of each major city. Petrone, Life Has Become More Joyous, 30; Edelman, Serious Fun, 37–43.
83 Richard Mandell, The Nazi Olympics (New York, 1971); Victoria De Grazia, The Culture of Consent: The Mass Organization of Leisure in Fascist Italy (Cambridge, 1981).
84 Petrone, Life Has Become More Joyous, 23–45; Edelman, Serious Fun, 37–43.
85 Nikolai Starostin, Futbol skvoz’ gody, 19–40; RGAK, reel no. 1–30605–1.
86 Brownell, Training the Body for China, 11.
87 These practices of the body can have as important a historical impact as more conventional concerns of scholars. Richard Gruneau has argued, “Bodily disciplines, habits and ceremonies both constitute and express the relative power of classes, regions, ethnic groups and genders. They also constitute and express the differences in power between organizational and client groups and their supervisory and administrative superiors.” Gruneau, “Critique of Sport,” 85–105.
88 The Olympic model is inherently statist because athletes take part as representatives of nations, even though many Olympic Committees are formally independent of governments.
89 Fotoal’bom spartakiada (Moscow, 1929), n.p.
90 Victor Turner, ed., Celebration: Studies in Festivity and Ritual (Washington, D.C., 1982); Turner, From Ritual to Theater: The Human Seriousness of Play (New York, 1982). While Olympic practitioners would seek to see the rituals they invented as sacred, there are, in Turner’s view, profane rituals as well.
91 V. Vinokurov and O. Kucherenko, Dinamo Moskva (Moscow, 1973); Vsesoiuznoe fizkul’turno-sportivnoe ordena Lenina obshchetsvo Dinamo (Moscow, 1956).
92 On the march, see Christel Lane, The Rites of Rulers: Ritual in Industrial Society—The Soviet Case (Cambridge, 1981); My iz Dinamo, sbornik ocherkov i statei o sportsmenakh i kollektivakh ordena Lenina, fizkul’turno-sportivnogo obshchetsva Dinamo (Moscow, 1968); Dinamovtsy v boiakh za Rodinu, sbornik (Moscow, 1975).
93 Nikolai Starostin, Futbol skvoz’ gody, 29–34; RGAK, reel no. 1–30605–1.
94 Boris Khavin, Vse o sovetskikh olimpitsakh (Moscow, 1985), 6–36.
95 Riordan, Sport in Soviet Society, 159. On the seriousness with which the Dinamo Society took the Olympics, see Dinamovtsy—Geroi olimpiada (Moscow, 1982).
96 Dunning, “Sport as a Male Preserve,” 163; Gruneau and Whitson, Hockey Night in Canada, 192.
97 Vartanian, “Draki pri sotsializme.” On Dinamo fanship, see N. Arutunian and N. Naumenko, “Ispoved’ belo-golubogo fanata,” Sport dlia vsekh, no. 16 (1998): 2.
98 Khavin, Vse o sovetskikh olimpitsakh, 7. See Riordan, Sport in Soviet Society, 320–22, on the banning of women’s soccer. It was a journalistic staple to call soccer a “man’s game.” See Romm, Ia boleiu za Spartak, 11; and Merzhanov, Igraet Spartak, 4.
99 Perhaps the most triumphalist of the Soviet students of labor is S. L. Selianskii, for whom the history of the Soviet working class up to the 1970s is a succession of victories. See Selianskii, Izmeneniia v sotsial’noi strukture sovetskogo obshchestva, 1938–1970 (Moscow, 1973), 149–51; I. E. Vorozheikin and Selianskii, Rabochii klass, vedushchaia sila sovetskogo obshchestva (Moscow, 1977), 8–10; Selianskii and V. B. Tel’pukovskaia, Rabochii klass SSSR, 1938–1965 (Moscow, 1971), 58–59. A more nuanced approach was offered by Andrei Sokolov in the late 1980s. See A. K. Sokolov, Rabochii klass i revoliutsionnye izmeneniia v sotsial’noi strukture obshchestva (Moscow, 1987).
100 See note 5. Gabor Rittersporn, “From Working Class to Urban Laboring Mass: On Politics and Social Categories in the Formative Years of the Soviet System,” in Siegelbaum and Suny, Making Workers Soviet, 253–73.
101 A. I. Vdovin and V. Z. Drobizhev, Rost rabochego klassa SSSR, 1917–1940 gg. (Moscow, 1976), 87; Istoriia moskovskikh rabochikh, 137. Unlike the works of Selianskii, these books confront difficulties and also provide much useful information that allows a reader to disaggregate the working class in order to help characterize it with more precision.
102 Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism, 42.
103 Vdovin and Drobizhev, Rost rabochego klassa, 115–26. The figures on blue and white-collar workers are from Strauss, Factory and Community, 37.
104 Strauss, Factory and Community, 39. On white-collar workers during the 1920s, see Daniel Orlovsky, “The Hidden Class: White-Collar Workers in the Soviet Twenties,” in Siegelbaum and Suny, Making Workers Soviet, 222–48.
105 See Appadurai, Modernity at Large, on Indian cricket, 93; Vdovin and Drobizhev, Rost rabochego klassa, 131.
106 RGAK, reel nos. 1–3490, 1–30361–IX, 1–3752–IV, 1–2281, 1–2262, 1–2435, 1–2471, 1–2462, 1–4374, 1–3507, 1–4079, 1–3102, 1–3118, 1–30605–1, 1–3221.
107 On the retention of rural practices in urban settings, see Hoffmann, Peasant Metropolis, 118–37; Moshe Lewin, The Gorbachev Phenomenon: A Historical Interpretation (Berkeley, Calif., 1991); John Bushnell, “Urban Leisure Culture in Post-Stalin Russia: Stability as a Social Problem?” in Terry Thompson and Richard Sheldon, eds., Soviet Society and Culture: Essays in Honor of Vera S. Dunham (Boulder, Colo., 1988), 60.
108 Kandidov was the protagonist of the 1936 film Vratar’ (The Goalie) and the novelization of Lev Kassil’s screenplay, Vratar’ respubliki (The Goalie of the Republic). See also Keith A. Livers, “The Soccer Match as Stalinist Ritual: Constructing the Body Social in Lev Kassil’s The Goalkeeper of the Republic,” Russian Review 60 (October 2001): 592–613.
109 Vdovin and Drobizhev, Rost rabochego klassa, 139; Istoriia moskovskih rabochikh, 183; Strauss, Factory and Community, 29.
110 Vorozheikin and Selianskii, Rabochii klass, 8–9.
111 Vdovin and Drobizhev, Rost rabochego klassa, 112–15; Istoriia moskovskikh rabochikh, 183.
112 Vdovin and Drobizhev, Rost rabochego klassa, 195–212; Istoriia moskovskikh rabochikh, 332; Siegelbaum, Stakhanovism, 42–43.
113 Vdovin and Drobizhev, Rost rabochego klassa, 96, 98; see also O. I. Shkaratan, Problemy sotsial’noi struktury rabochego klassa SSSR (istoriko-sotsiol’ogicheskoe issledovanie) (Moscow, 1970).
114 Filtzer, Soviet Workers and Stalinist Industrialization, 2; Siegelbaum, Stakhanovism, 30; Robert Thurston, “Reassessing the History of Soviet Workers: Opportunities to Criticize and Take Part in Decision-Making, 1935–1941,” in Stephen White, ed., New Directions in Soviet History (Cambridge, 1992), 160–88.
115 Krasnyi sport, July 1, 1936.
116 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. edn. (London, 1991). In other cases over the course of Soviet history, fan communities could, in fact, embrace a nation. Sport was virtually the only safe way to express nationalist sentiments. Georgian soccer and Lithuanian basketball provided especially powerful cases. Ironically, Spartak was, at times, the target of such emotions. Riots and even murders were not uncommon. Vartanian, interview.
117 Yuri Oleshchuk, interview with the author, Moscow, December 12, 1999; Vainshtein, interview; Filtzer, Soviet Workers and Stalinist Industrialization, 225.
118 Vainshtein, in particular, took exception to the term “dissident.” “At the time, people did not think that way. It was never a dissident team, because all the people who rooted for Spartak were famous people of the regime . . . The actor Ianshin, the writer Kassil’ or the composer Shostakovich. They were all famous people but not opponents or dissidents. They honestly served the regime.” Vainshtein, interview.
119 Eric Dunning, Sport Matters: Sociological Studies of Sport, Violence and Civilization (London, 1999), 3–4. “[A]n important aspect of sports in modern societies consists in their development as an enclave where people are permitted to experience a relatively high—but crucially variable—degree of autonomy as far as their behavior, identities and relationships are concerned.” While this may sound like a safety valve, Dunning attaches too much significance to those “behaviors, identities and relationships” to use a term that implies a dismissal of the seriousness of the feelings and emotions expressed in sport.
120 On power of the non-state variety, see Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977 (New York, 1980), 58. For a clear discussion of Foucault’s thought with relation to sport and the body, see Gruneau, “Critique of Sport,” 103: “The virtue of Foucault for the study of sport is that he demands consideration of administrative power in the broadest possible range of practices and discourses that impinge on the human body. Foucault virtually forces one to consider the body by making it the primary site for the development of various technologies of power in modernity.”
121 To be fair, dissatisfaction with the 1938 cup competition was not limited to the police. Many in the football world complained about a whole range of organizational problems at a congress of football professionals. GARF, f.7576, op.13, d.17, ll.3, 31, 33, 44.
122 Prybylovskii, Trenery bol’shogo futbola, 43; Krasnyi sport, April 7, 1936, May 1, 1936, August 27, 1936; GARF, f.7576, op.1, d.364, l.93; GARF, f.7576, op.13, d.112, ll.3, 4, 14; Tsentral’noe Khranil’ishch’e Dokumentov Molodezhnykh Organizatsii (hereafter, TsKhDMO), f.M-1, op.5, d.75, ll.3–5. Thanks to Barbara Keys for sharing this material.
123 The Starostins’ base salary was a hefty 2,000 rubles per month compared to 190 for the average industrial worker. TsKhDMO, f.M-1, op.5, d.75, ll.3–5; Andrle, Workers in Stalinist Russia, 45. For a more detailed account of the charges raised against the Starostins, see Keys, “Dictatorship of Sport,” 250–54.
124 TsKhDMO, f.1, op.23, d.1268, ll.1–2; Futbol-khokkei, May 13, 1990; Nikolai Starostin, interview; Nikolai Starostin, Futbol skvoz’ gody, 44.
125 According to official legend, Serafim died at the front. Georgii succumbed to war wounds in 1946. For classically hagiographic accounts of their lives, see Sportsmeny (Moscow 1963), 65; Sovetskii sport, July 8, 1958; A. Salutskii, Brat’ia Znamenskie (Moscow, 1973). In a February 2001 television show in the series “Bol’shoi roditel'” on NTV, the daughter of Georgii Znamenskii said her father and uncle were NKVD agents and that Serafim had committed suicide, not died at the front. While her assertions may not necessarily be true, they do track well with the Znamenskiis’ accusations of the Starostins.
126 The Starostins were also accused of buying excessive gifts for their wives when in Paris. The presents consisted of twelve French dresses for each wife as well as commodes. The trip to Paris took place in July 1937 and was connected with the Paris International Exposition. The Znamenskiis were also part of the Soviet delegation. TsKhDMO, f.1, op.23, d.1268, l.22.
127 TsKhDMO, f.1, op.23, d.1268, ll.24–25. This practice did, in fact occur, and would come back to haunt Spartak when one of their goalies, Vladislav Zhmelkov, was called back to the army. After it had been discovered that he had left the service two months earlier than the end of his hitch, he was required to play for TsDKA. Zhmelkov refused the assignment and found himself playing for an army team in faraway Chita. He was sent to the front when the war broke out. While Zhmelkov survived, he was unable to resume his career at the highest level. The deterioration in his game has usually been ascribed to heavy drinking after his professional exile to Chita. Spartak, no. 5 (May 2000): 17.
128 TsKhDMO, f.1, op.23, d.1268, ll.28–31.
129 Petrone, Life Has Become More Joyous, 85–109. On Kosarev, see E. Dobrovol’skii, “Aleksandr Kosarev,” Sportklub, no. 4 (1998): 34–36; Nikolai Starostin, interview. On Kosarev’s close relationship with Yezhov and his strong support for the terror, see J. Arch Getty and Oleg Naumov, eds., The Road to Terror: Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932–39 (New Haven, Conn., 1999), 411. One example of Kosarev’s ardor, concerning the purges, emerged during the discussion of sentencing of Nikolai Bukharin. Nearly every member of the Politburo (including Krupskaia) voted to support Stalin’s decision, whatever it might be. Kosarev, however, demanded execution.
130 Getty and Naumov, Road to Terror, 489–550.
131 Starostin has acknowledged that the one goal scored by Spartak against Dinamo Tbilisi in the 1–0 semi-final was controversial. The ball had, seemingly passed the goal line but was cleared away by a defender before it could touch the ground or the net. Nevertheless, the referee had ruled a goal. Nikolai Starostin, Futbol skvoz’ gody, 41–57.
132 Nikolai Starostin, Futbol skvoz’ gody, 63–64.
133 In his final memoir, Nikolai Starostin attributed Molotov’s initial reluctance to their daughters’ friendship, but aside from the prime minister’s reputation as something less than a sentimentalist, this does not explain what had changed by 1942. Futbol skvoz’ gody, 63.
134 In a discussion of the Stalin period that did not mention the Starostin case specifically, Aksel’ Vartanian referred to an old anecdote that lent credibility to the claim that their “light” sentence was an admission of their innocence. “Did you hear about Ivanov?” “What did he get?” “Twelve years.” “What for?” “For nothing.” “What are you talking about? For nothing, they give you ten years.” Sportekspress, February 26, 2001.
135 GARF, f.7583, op.60, d.4105, ll.2–5.
136 The political accusations may have been added to keep the trial out of an ordinary criminal court, where a football-loving judge, blinded by the Starostins’ popularity, might have dismissed the case. J. Arch Getty, personal communication after reading the documents, March 1999.
137 If it turned out that the brothers had committed “crimes” less noble than merely being better at soccer than Dinamo, it becomes easier to understand the unwillingness of the Starostin family to allow outsiders access to their police file.
138 Vainshtein, interview. At the time of the interview, Vainshtein did not know of the existence of the sentencing document. I do not know if he has learned of its existence since.
139 Lev Filatov, “Romb Nikolaia Petrovicha, Sekta gde verkhovodili Starostiny,” Sportivnaia zhizn’ Rossii, no. 3 (1997): 3–4.
140 Edelman, Serious Fun, 84; Jim Riordan, “The Strange Case of Nikolai Starostin, Football and Lavrentii Beria,” Europe-Asia Studies 46, no. 4 (1994): 681–90; Sovetskii sport, May 11, 1990. Nikita Simonian, Spartak star of the 1950s and later coach, along with Gennadii Logofet’, a star of the 1960s, both described Starostin’s constant willingness to regale the team about his Gulag experiences. Logofet’, interview with the author, Moscow, September 5, 2000; Simonian, interview, Moscow, September 7, 2000.
141 Andrei Starostin, Bol’shoi, 200. Starostin went on to say that he and his brothers were sent to “various far-off parts of the country.” He then follows this statement with a brief description of his soccer activities in the Arctic nickel-mining town of Norylsk. Starostin never says he was actually in a camp. Instead, the experience is made to sound like a provincial exile.
142 Stephen Kotkin, “Coercion and Identity: Workers’ Lives in Stalin’s Showcase City,” in Siegelbaum and Suny, Making Workers Soviet, 278.
143 Kotkin, “Coercion and Identity,” 309.
144 Stuart Hall, “Notes on Deconstructing the Popular,” in People’s History and Socialist Theory, Raphael Samuel, ed. (London, 1981), 232.
145 Oleshchuk, interview.
146 Moshe Lewin, “Concluding Remarks,” in Siegelbaum and Suny, Making Workers Soviet, 378.
147 For accounts that provide an introduction to the richness and limitations of Soviet popular culture, see Richard Stites, Russian Popular Culture (Cambridge, 1992); see also Frederick Starr, Red and Hot: The Fate of Jazz in the Soviet Union, 1917–1991 (New York, 1994).
BY: ROBERT EDELMAN