10 CURIOUS facts about sports in the USSR (2023)

1. Communist flag appears in Europe

10 CURIOUS facts about sports in the USSR (1)

Soviet football players in Paris, 1926. Artemyev holds the Soviet banner.

Public domain

The symbolism and anthems of socialist countries in international competitions in Europe were not a welcome sight: the USSR’s red flag, for instance, was banned; so was performing the Soviet Union’s national anthem. Soviet footballers found a crafty way out of the situation during the 1932 international tour across the Baltic, Scandinavia and Germany. Captain Pyotr Artemyev passed through customs with the flag wrapped around his body. When the time came to play, the Soviet team came onto the field carrying the large unfolded red cloth.

2.First radio sports report in the USSR

10 CURIOUS facts about sports in the USSR (2)

Vadim Sinyavsky.

Public domain

The growth of the radio happened together with that of sports. On May 26, 1929, the soccer match between Ukraine and the Moscow Team was for the first time in history commented on the radio by 22-year-old Vadim Sinyavsky, who would go on to become a legendary commentator and one of the first sports journalists in the USSR. Interestingly, one of his main gifts was a perfect pitch and before his job as a radio fitness instructor, he worked as a ballroom pianist in Moscow movie theaters.

3.Red Square hosts a soccer match

10 CURIOUS facts about sports in the USSR (3)

(Video) Top 10 Strangest Things We Know About Vladimir Putin

A game on the Red Square.

Public domain

In 1936, a soccer match took place on the Red Square. And the main man in the audience was Joseph Stalin himself, who was a huge fan of the sport. The match was planned as a finale to a large-scale physical fitness parade. The match was between Spartak Moscow’s primary and reserve players. For the game to take place, a massive carpet was rolled out onto the square, measuring a whopping 9,000 square meters. Some 3,000 people toiled away making it. The game, though, contained no surprises, as it was entirely fixed! Well, at least the Soviet leader got to see every conceivable goal scenario play out.

4.‘GTO’ norms as a sign of a top quality athlete

In 1932, the country developed a fitness standard as part of a large-scale project, the so-called ‘GTO’ - Gotov k Trudu i Oborone (“Ready for Work and Defense”). According to the plan, each Soviet citizen should be a good runner, jumper, shooter, thrower, swimmer and show an impressive pull-up record. They would be judged according to the norms set by these ‘GTO’ standards, with success rewarded in the form of a badge. The norms existed until the fall of the USSR.

5. A vase as a championship prize

10 CURIOUS facts about sports in the USSR (5)

The prize for the national soccer championship made from the vase.

(Video) Russia for Kids: Russian Facts & Fun about the world's largest country

Alexander Abaza/MAMM/MDF

For a long time, Soviet leadership was against rewarding its athletes. It was considered that medals and rewards were facets of the bourgeois West and would never gain popularity in a socialist country. In time, things changed. The top prize for victory in the national soccer championship was designed by the head of the Football Counsel, Aleksey Sokolov. In the 1930s, he acquired a crochet vase from an antique store in Moscow. It was then given legs and the USSR coat of arms. Atop it the figure of a soccer player stood perched.

6.The fate of the Starostin brothers

10 CURIOUS facts about sports in the USSR (6)

FC Spartak at the athletes' parade, 1937.

Public domain

In the spring of 1942, the NKVD arrested the legend and living symbol of Spartak, Master of Sport, Nikolai Starostin. Later, his three brothers were also taken to Lubyanka (the headquarters of Soviet intelligence - KGB and, later, the FSB). They, too, were Spartak players. The investigation continued for more than a year and a half, with the four brothers charged with the attempted murder of Joseph Stalin himself, which was supposedly planned for a massive parade in 1937. Later, the charges would be changed to “praising a bourgeois sport and attempts to infect it with bourgeois values”. It was claimed that a car, made to look like a soccer boot came within 10 meters of the Mausoleum, which would supposedly have given the Starostins an opportunity to carry out an act of terrorism. The brothers were charged and given ten year sentences, which they would spend in different labor camps, so as to prevent them from staying in touch.

7. Athletes during World War II

10 CURIOUS facts about sports in the USSR (7)

At the Dynamo shooting range outside Moscow, August 1941.

Public domain

Moscow was one of the last places in Europe to host a soccer championship in wartime. While soldiers viciously clashed with the enemy on the battlefield, football went on as usual - although, it did have to be put on hold at one point. On the fifth day of the war, the OMSBON - or the Special Purpose Separate Motor Firing Brigade - was formed by the NKVD. It included all manner of athletes - from lifters to shooters and skiers, boxers, swimmers and so on. Its main task revolved around sabotage behind enemy lines.

(Video) Top 10 Countries by Military Spending (1870-2020)

8. FC Dynamo in the UK

10 CURIOUS facts about sports in the USSR (8)

FC Dynamo before the game with the FC Chelsea, 1945.


After the war, in the fall of 1945, the Soviet football team Dynamo was sent to play a series of games in Britain. Officially, the initiative was presented as support for the Allies during the tough postwar period, while demonstrating common achievements in sports. However, the Soviet delegation presented a list of demands regarding how the friendly games were to be played: The games would be played only against English clubs, not more than once a week (on Saturdays), no entertainment of any kind that wasn’t relevant to football, warmup and training before every match (the British considered this one particularly weird). Soviet footballers played four matches, winning two and drawing in the other two.

9.World chess leader

10 CURIOUS facts about sports in the USSR (9)

The USSR-U.S. chess tournament, 1948.

Anatoly Garanin/Sputnik

In 1948, Mikhail Botvinnik won a championship game in Haage and Moscow, becoming the world chess champion. After the victory, the game was turned into a national sport by the government, with the Soviet chess school taking up leading positions across the world for decades to come: amateurs and professionals alike loved to dissect the tactics and games of their chess idols - Botvinnik, Tal, Petrosyan, Spassky, and later - Karpov and Kasparov.

10.Crown jewel of Soviet stadiums

10 CURIOUS facts about sports in the USSR (10)

(Video) Fascinating Facts About The Russian Revolution

At the Dynamo stadium, 1937.

Ivan Shagin/Sputnik

One of the first - and largest - stadiums in the country was the Dynamo one. It was the first successful experience of working with reinforced concrete on a large scale: the stadium’s capacity was 25,000. It was built in record time, just over a year. And, in the summer of 1928, the Soviets were already hosting the All-Sovet Spartakiade. The project was the brainchild of designers Dmitry Iofan and Moisey Ginsburg. However, in the end, the designs were amended and redrawn by Arkadiy Langman and Lazar Cherikover.Russia Beyond thanks the KION online cinema documentary project ‘Sport XX Veka’ for assistance in the preparation of materials for this article.

If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.


to our newsletter!

Get the week's best stories straight to your inbox

') }, error: function() { $email.val(''); alert('An unknown error occurred. Try later.'); } }); } if (isDaily) { $.ajax({ type: "GET", dataType: "json", url: 'https://subscribe.rbth.com/subscribe//' + $email.val() + '?_t=' + (new Date()).getTime(), success: function () { $subscribe.addClass('subscribe_complete'); $subscribe.html('

Almost Finished...

(Video) 50 Things That Prove Canada Is a Unique Country

') }, error: function() { $email.val(''); alert('An unknown error occurred. Try later.'); } }); } } }); }; initFormSubmit(); $completeButton.on('click', function (evt) { evt.preventDefault(); evt.window.location.reload(); }); }());


What sports were popular in the Soviet Union? ›

Although Soviet athletes were declared amateurs, they were well supported by the Sports State Committee. Soviet national teams were especially successful in ice hockey—winning numerous world championships and Olympic gold medals—volleyball, and, later, basketball.

What was the most popular sport in the USSR? ›


What is a fact about Russian sport? ›

Russia's traditional popular sport is Bandy (informally called "Russian hockey"). It is considered by the country as a national sport, and is one of the biggest spectator sports. Although the modern rules of the game were written in England, Russians still claim to be the inventors of this sport.

Why were the Soviets so good at sports? ›

Soviets were strong believers in the “triangle” theory where the more people they trained and had participate in sports, the large base of the pyramid, they would be able to produce more top level athletes to succeed in international competitions.

What sport did Russia invent? ›

What sport originated in Russia? The national sport, bandy, though its rules were written in England, was invented in Russia. The Federation of International Bandy was established in 1955, but many games had already taken place before that in the country, even before the English rules.

How did sports impact the Cold War? ›

Cold War Athletic Competition

Throughout the Cold War there was an intense athletic rivalry between the Soviet bloc and the United States and its allies. Both sides touted sports victories as proof of ideological superiority.

Did the USSR win the Olympics? ›

The Soviet Union later boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. The Soviet Union won the most gold and overall medals, with the USSR and East Germany winning 127 out of 203 available golds.
Host city selection.
MoscowSoviet Union39
Los AngelesUnited States20

How good was the USSR at football? ›

The Soviet Union failed to qualify for the World Cup only twice, in 1974 and 1978, and attended seven finals tournaments in total. Their best finish was fourth in 1966, when they lost to West Germany in the semifinals, 2–1.

What games did Russia invent? ›

  • I of the Dragon.
  • IL-2 Sturmovik (series)
  • IL-2 Sturmovik (video game)
  • IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946.
  • IL-2 Sturmovik: Great Battles.
  • IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey.
  • IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover.
  • IL-2 Sturmovik: Forgotten Battles.

What are some interesting sports facts? ›

Our top 10 Sporting Facts to satisfy your Sports Trivia appetite
  • Golf Balls Have, On Average, 336 Dimples. ...
  • Olympic Gold Medals are Predominantly Made from Sterling Silver. ...
  • Formula One Driver, Sebastian Vettel, Wears Lucky Coins in His Racing Boots. ...
  • Sports Have Been Played on the Moon.
Aug 17, 2016

How do Russians cheer for sports? ›

Russian Sports Cheers

If you want to make it even simpler, just yell “Russia!” (Россия!) Ура! (Ura) — This little word is the Russian equivalent of “Hoorah!” It's pronounced pretty much the same, but without the hard “h” at the beginning (so more like OO-rah with a rolled “r”).

Why is Russia not allowed in sports? ›

In February 2022, FIFA and UEFA issued a statement in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and subsequently banned Russian teams. The legal basis for any FIFA or UEFA ban arises from their respective regulatory statutes.

Why were Russian athletes allowed to compete? ›

In 2017, the International Olympic Committee suspended Russia. After an appeal by several Russian athletes who were not linked to the scheme, the Court of Arbitrations for Sport allowed Russian athletes to participate in global competitions as neutral competitors.

Did Russians invent hockey? ›

Ice hockey was popularized by Canadians introduced to the Soviet Union in 1932. Anatoly Tarasov is considered the father of Soviet ice hockey.

Did the Russians invent baseball? ›

Shachin, citing cultural historians, insists that baseball descended from an ancient Russian game of bats and balls called lapta, brought by Russian emigres to what is now California some two centuries before the arrival of Dodgers and Giants.

What happened to sports during war? ›

During WWII nearly every American sports team lost players, as well as coaches, referees and other team members, as the men were drafted or joined the military, but only one sport advanced women's athletics – American baseball.

What was the competition between the US and the USSR? ›

The Cold War was an ongoing political rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies that developed after World War II. This hostility between the two superpowers was first given its name by George Orwell in an article published in 1945.

How did Cold War affect Olympics? ›

The Cold War made for decades of tense Olympic battles between the United States and the Soviet Union. In 1980 that rivalry split the Olympics altogether.

How long is USSR banned from Olympics? ›

WADA's ban was shortened to two years after Russia appealed, but it runs through the end of 2022, meaning the country is not officially being recognized at the Winter Games.

When did US beat USSR in hockey? ›

On Feb. 22, 1980, the United States beat the Soviet Union 4-3 in an ice hockey game at the Lake Placid Olympics. It was one of the biggest upsets in sports history.

When was USSR banned from the Olympics? ›

The short article from the History channel gives an explanation of the why the USSR boycotted the Summer Olympics in 1984.

Was the Soviet Union good at basketball? ›

Based on the number of medals, the basketball program of the former Soviet Union remains one of the most successful in the history of international basketball competitions.

Did USSR ever win a World Cup? ›

The Soviet Union surprisingly never won the World Cup, nor did they ever appear in the Final. However, the country did win the Olympics in 1956 and 1988, as well as the European Championships in 1960. The Soviet Union were consistent at qualifying however.

Did the USSR win any World Cups? ›

Russia has participated in 4 FIFA World Cups since its independence in December 1991. The Russian Federation played their first international match against Mexico on 16 August 1992, winning 2–0.
Russia's World Cup record
Biggest WinSoviet Union 6–0 Hungary (2 June 1986; Irapuato, Mexico)
4 more rows

Is chess a Soviet game? ›

Although chess had been a game of the bourgeoisie and upper classes before the Russian Revolution, its popularity among Bolshevik leaders, including Vladimir Lenin, contributed to its being supported by state leaders in the USSR as a national pastime.

What video game did the USSR create? ›

Tetris (Russian: Тетрис) is a puzzle video game created by Soviet software engineer Alexey Pajitnov in 1984.

Did the USSR have video games? ›

History. The history of mass videogaming in Russia (back then in the Soviet Union) takes its roots in the early 1980s when personal computers of different models (Atari 400/800, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum 48/128) were brought to the country from United States, Europe, Japan and China.

What is Russia's full name? ›

The Russian Federation (Russia) is physically the largest country in the world, covering 6.6 million square miles and 11 time zones over its 6,000-mile length.

What is Russia old name? ›

Co-official name: Russian Federation, formerly the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) (among other names) from 1917 to 1991.

What are 3 important facts about Russia? ›

Russia, the largest country in the world, occupies one-tenth of all the land on Earth. It spans 11 time zones across two continents (Europe and Asia) and has coasts on three oceans (the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic). The Russian landscape varies from desert to frozen coastline, tall mountains to giant marshes.

What are 2 facts about sports? ›

Unique Facts About Sports Rules

According to the new change, an incomplete forward pass cost teams a 15-yard penalty. A forfeited game in baseball is recorded as 9-0. This correlates to the number of innings scheduled to be played out every game. Football was essentially born from Rugby.

What is the No 1 sport? ›


Soccer, also known as association football, is by far the most popular sport in the world, despite the fact that it may not be obvious in the United States. Soccer is the most popular sport in practically all of Europe, South America, Africa, the Middle East, Central America, and Asia.

Are Russian athletes allowed to play? ›

Russian and Belarusian athletes will be able to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympics as independent Olympians, the International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday, despite a call from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to exclude them entirely.

Which kinds of extreme sports are popular in Russia? ›

The 5 Best Adventure Activities In Russia
  • Climbing Mt. Elbrus.
  • Diving In Ruskeala Marble Quarry.
  • Hiking In The Altai Region.
  • Rafting In The Ural Region.
  • Ice Diving In Baikal Lake.
Jan 4, 2018

What sport was banned in Russia? ›

Rugby. Rugby's world governing body banned Russia and Belarus from all international rugby “until further notice”. Russia's membership in World Rugby was also suspended indefinitely, meaning its slim hopes of qualifying for next year's World Cup in France are over.

What sports have banned Russians? ›

Everywhere you look in sports these days, Russians are disappearing. The international governing bodies for basketball, soccer and hockey—FIBA, FIFA and the IIHF—banned Russian teams from competition in the wake of Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

What sports have been Cancelled in Russia? ›

World Rugby has suspended Russia and Belarus from all "international rugby and cross-border rugby activities" and the Rugby Union of Russia has also had its membership suspended. It means Russia will no longer be allowed to qualify for the 2023 World Cup.

What flag do Russian athletes use? ›

Russian athletes are only able to compete under the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) flag due to an ongoing ban over the country's previous doping violations.

Why are they called ROC? ›

The three-letter code ROC stands for Russian Olympic Committee, whose flag will be used — including a stylized Russian tricolor emblem — and the team will wear national colors.

Why can't the Russians be in the Olympics? ›

Russia received a two-year ban from the World Anti-Doping Agency for its state-sponsored doping program. Between December 17, 2020, and December 17, 2022, no athlete can represent Russia at the Olympics, Paralympics or World Championships.

What sport did Stalin play? ›

Lieutenant General Vasily Stalin, the son of Joseph Stalin, was the president of the club. Vsevolod Bobrov played on the football team 1950–52 and the ice hockey team 1949–53.
VVS Moscow.
Full nameVoenno-Vozdushnye Sily Moscow
Nickname(s)“The Planes”
1952Soviet Top League, 11th
3 more rows

What sports were played during the Cold War? ›

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union joined many international sporting federations and became proficient in several sports – even those sports with a limited history in Russia, such as basketball, volleyball and football (soccer).

What sports were popular in Russia in the early 1900s? ›

Among the sports that took center stage during this time period were tennis and soccer, although basketball, cricket, fencing, wrestling and various other sports did gain popularity during this time period as well.

Did the Soviet Union play football? ›

The first international match played by a Soviet team (as Russian SFSR) came in September 1922, when the Finnish Workers' Sports Federation football team toured Russia (Russia formed the Soviet Union at the end of December 1922, Treaty on the Creation of the USSR).

What football team did Stalin support? ›

Stalin needed assurance that his team would be the best. Stalin had that chance, when the English team, Arsenal, played Moscow Dynamo. On October 5, 1952, the two teams played each other in Moscow, with Stalin using the game as an opportunity to highlight friendship between the two nations.

Did the Soviets play in the NHL? ›

The Russian Five was the nickname given to the unit of five Russian ice hockey players from the Soviet Union that played for the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League in the 1990s. The five players were Sergei Fedorov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Slava Kozlov, Slava Fetisov, and Igor Larionov.

What are the 6 sports that have occurred in every winter game? ›

Cross-country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, nordic combined, ski jumping, and speed skating have been on the program at every Winter Olympics since 1924.

What sports are associated with snow? ›

Winter sports are lots of fun — just ask any kid who's just scored the winning goal during an ice-hockey game or finished sledding to the bottom of a giant hill.

Was there any physical fighting in the Cold War? ›

Soldiers of the Soviet Union and the United States did not do battle directly during the Cold War. But the two superpowers continually antagonized each other through political maneuvering, military coalitions, espionage, propaganda, arms buildups, economic aid, and proxy wars between other nations.

What games originated in Russia? ›

Lapta (lapTAH) is one of the oldest Russian games, dating back to the 10th century in Kievan Rus'. With similarities to cricket, baseball and Rounders, Lapta is still popular in modern Russia today. Lapta is a bat-and-ball game played on a rectangular field.

Who beat the Soviet Union in hockey? ›

43 years ago, USA beat Soviets in 'Miracle on Ice' at Lake Placid Olympics [video] On Feb. 22, 1980, the United States beat the Soviet Union 4-3 in an ice hockey game at the Lake Placid Olympics. It was one of the biggest upsets in sports history.

When did USSR beat US in basketball? ›

The Soviet Union beat the USA in the controversial 1972 Olympic basketball final, the first time America had failed to win gold in the event.

What was Soviet Union famous for? ›

Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) , or Soviet Union, was the first country to form a government based on the system known as Communism. It only existed from 1922 to 1991. For much of that time, however, it was one of the most powerful countries in the world.


1. 50 Insane Facts About North Korea You Didn't Know
(The Infographics Show)
2. 101 Facts about the Winter Olympics
3. 10 Insane Facts About Russia
4. Gymnastic FAILS That SHOCKED The WORLD..
(Sports Dive)
5. Simpsons Predictions For 2023 is Unbelievable!
6. We have the best | America vs India Ultimate Troll | iMacTV
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Clemencia Bogisich Ret

Last Updated: 01/04/2023

Views: 5814

Rating: 5 / 5 (60 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Clemencia Bogisich Ret

Birthday: 2001-07-17

Address: Suite 794 53887 Geri Spring, West Cristentown, KY 54855

Phone: +5934435460663

Job: Central Hospitality Director

Hobby: Yoga, Electronics, Rafting, Lockpicking, Inline skating, Puzzles, scrapbook

Introduction: My name is Clemencia Bogisich Ret, I am a super, outstanding, graceful, friendly, vast, comfortable, agreeable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.