Soviet bodybuilding the history of forbidden sports

The history of bodybuilding in the Soviet Union was thorny: one can only admire the legends of Soviet bodybuilding, which, despite all the prohibitions and condemnation of the authorities, continued to engage in self-development, and then passed on invaluable experience to their followers. Bodybuilding in the USSR was perceived as a Western trend. The Soviet government believed that Primobolan cycle: How To Get Your Next Level Of Yourself it was useless for a man to pump muscles and admire himself in front of a mirror, and strength and endurance are needed in order to work as much as possible.

Bodybuilding has become a forbidden fruit, but what, if not forbidden, does our man love more than anything else? Underground halls, reprints of Polish magazines, pieces of rails instead of shells, and even the risk of imprisonment - despite all these circumstances, people continued to practice. Bodybuilders instantly determined "their" in a chance meeting on the street, and it was like a secret club.


At a meeting of the State Sports Committee in 1973, sports officials gathered to discuss the new sport that is becoming increasingly popular - bodybuilding. It was then that a decree was passed that drove bodybuilders for many years into the cellars. The text said the following:

Recently, types of physical exercises and activities that have nothing to do with the Soviet system of physical education and carry the danger of spreading ideas containing a harmful social orientation have become widespread ... Training includes only weight-bearing exercises aimed at an immense increase in muscle. Self-love, extreme egoism, flaunting the so-called body culture - all this contradicts the Soviet system of physical culture and sports, which fosters collectivism, labor and political activity ...

The state needed functional athletes capable of winning prizes in international competitions in order to enhance the country's prestige and thus reinforce the correctness of socialist and communist ideologies. From 1931 until the very end of the existence of the USSR, the TRP system Ready for Labor and Defense worked. It was a set of sports standards: running, push-ups, diving from a height and throwing a grenade, which, obviously, seemed to the state one of the most important skills of Soviet people. Naturally, officials did not see any benefit in building muscle for muscle. And where there is no use, there is clearly harm.

Alexander Shirai.

What then began the history of bodybuilding in the Soviet Union? As in many other countries, bodybuilders began with circus artists, wrestlers and weightlifters. Even before the revolution, the former wrestler Yevgeny Sandov, whose name was actually Friedrich Wilhelm Muller and who was a native of Prussia, in 1894 patented the system of muscular development through strength exercises. It was the Sandov system that formed the basis of the culture of physical development in the USSR. Most Soviet bodybuilders worked on his method until the 60s of the XX century and even later.

The very phenomenon of competition and evaluation on the subject of who has the most beautiful physique and impressive muscles in the Soviet Union, perhaps, first appeared in 1948, when in the Moscow Concert Hall. P.I. Tchaikovsky passed the first competition in the beauty of physique among circus athletes. The winner was recognized by Aleksand Shirai, the famous acrobat and gymnast.

Alexander Shirai.

Shirai really possessed an excellent physique for those times and repeatedly posed for paintings and sculptures. Paradoxical as it may seem, ordinary Soviet workers were sculpted from this circus artist.

Even before the official ban in 1973, bodybuilding in the Soviet Union was suspicious, considering it to be an instrument of the harmful influence of the West. Therefore, those who rocked iron, engaged in "athleticism" and "athletic gymnastics", and not bodybuilding or bodybuilding.

George Tenno (right).

In the 1960s, one of the main propagandists of bodybuilding in the USSR was weightlifter George Tenno. The former naval officer went through World War II, but in 1948 his military career ended, as he was arrested on suspicion of espionage. Tenno sat for eight years, and in the same cell with the writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn. During his prison term, he tried to escape five times, but all his attempts failed. Solzhenitsyns novel The Gulag Archipelago has a chapter entitled Convinced Runaway dedicated to George Tenno. In the late 1950s, when the athlete was rehabilitated, he got a job at the Central Research Institute of Physical Education. Here he took up his favorite business - the development of a system of strength training.

In 1968, his fundamental work Athletism, which was dubbed the Bible for Bodybuilders, saw the light of day. This was the handbook of all Soviet pitching until the mid-1980s, and there was everything you needed: a description of exercises with free weights, diet recommendations, tips for recovering from a workout, recommendations for drying. For the USSR, it was a unique source of information in its entirety. Obviously, Tenno had access to foreign literature, including books by American bodybuilding father Joe Vader. Since Tenno was fluent in English, he could get the necessary materials through his connections at work.

When asked about his sources, Tenno was silent, and on the pages of his book it was repeatedly repeated that athleticism was not to make faces at the mirror, but to develop muscles in order to be able to successfully serve the state. The false denunciation prison taught him very well how to speak in order to present bodybuilding as something useful and socially significant.

Steve Reeves as Heracles.

At what point did the Soviet guys craze for bodybuilding? In the early 1960s, cinema screens released a picture of the joint production of Spain and Italy, The exploits of Hercules, the main role in which was played by American actor Steve Reeves. It was he who for many years became the standard for bodybuilders in the USSR. Now, of course, Reeves would be very far from the podium at the bodybuilding competition - his bicep girth was only 45 cm compared to the average 54-55 cm for modern bodybuilders. However, in the 1940-1950s, Reeves became "Mr. America," "Mr. of the World," and "Mr. Universe." The film became a real hit in the USSR: it was watched by more than 36 million people, it was included in the list of ten most popular film distribution films.

Gold medalist Yuri Vlasov at the 1960 Olympics.

The very first Soviet bodybuilders of that era can be considered Soviet weightlifters Yuri Vlasov and Leonid Zhabotinsky. Vlasov brought the USSR gold at the 1960 Olympics, and in 1961 he played at the World Weightlifting Championships in Vienna.

Arnold Schwarzenegger meeting with Yuri Vlasov years after the first meeting.

It was then that he was seen by the 14-year-old son of a policeman named Arnold Schwarzenegger. After the performance, the young Arnold Potential Benefit of Using Trenbolone Acetate dosage Will keep You Alive for 10 More Years managed to shake Vlasovs hand. He was so impressed with the power and article of the Soviet athlete that he decided to start seriously involved in weightlifting. So it turned out the future legend of world bodybuilding.

Meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger with Yuri Vlasov.

Goiko Mitich.

Another role model for Soviet bodybuilders was the Yugoslav actor and gymnast Goiko Mitich. He played Indians in films made by the friendly GDR. Unlike the American Westerns, in these films the Indians were positive characters, and the cowboys were evil and greedy, therefore, in contrast, they were called westerns.

As such, there were no special institutions for practicing "athletic gymnastics". The first special gym in the USSR opened in 1962. Bodybuilders in their forums like to argue which hall was the very first: the Fakel club in Leningrad or the Anichkov Palace, which was then called the Leningrad Pioneer Palace and where athletes found shelter in the boxing section.

By the late 1960s, thanks to films and the growing popularity of muscular physique, halls opened throughout the country. Often they existed under the auspices of some institution or enterprise: for example, the Gorky Automobile Plant and the Kalinin Khimvolokno plant had their own clubs of athletic gymnastics. Soviet pitching studied the methods described in Polish magazines, because in the domestic editions there were only training options with dumbbells according to the Sandow system, which at that time was out of date for obvious reasons. The whole world rocked his muscles according to Joe Vader, and Sandov was the last century in the literal sense of the word.

Tournament "Amber Prize" in the Baltic States, 1968.

The Soviet authorities did not like this obscure hobby of youth, and persecution gradually began. Towards the end of the 1960s, the bodybuilding movement in the Union moved to the western borders of the country, where life has always been more European. In 1968, one of the first bodybuilding tournaments, the Amber Prize, was held in the city of Palanga in Lithuania. These competitions are still held, although in 1971-1976 there was a break due to strong pressure from the state.

USSR Championship in bodybuilding in 1971.

In the same 1968, all-Siberian competitions among bodybuilders took place in Tyumen, and the first unofficial all-Union championship was held in 1971 in Severodvinsk, which became the unofficial capital of Soviet bodybuilding. The winner was won by Severodvino Alexander Lemekhov, the second place was taken by the current president of the Russian Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation Vladimir Dubinin, and Vladimir Khomulev came in third.

Alexander Lemekhov is the first USSR champion in bodybuilding.

Second right: young Igor Petrukhin at the bodybuilding tournament in Vilnius in 1966.

In 1972, another championship was held in Severodvinsk, which was the last: in 1973, the State Sports Committee issued a decree banning bodybuilding. Interestingly, just before the main part of the competition, athletes had to swim 50 meters in 45 seconds to demonstrate the functionality of their muscles.

Vladimir Dubinin is a prize-winner of the USSR bodybuilding championships, the current president of the Russian Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation.

Vladimir Dubinin is a bodybuilder from Leningrad who for many years has been the head of the Russian Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation. He also shook hands with Schwarzenegger and even gave him busts of Lenin and Stalin. Dubinin is truly legendary and worthy of a separate post on Big Picch.

Vladimir Dubinin.

After the ill-fated decree of 1973, gyms moved to basements: from places where weightlifters trained, people who were engaged for the sake of body beauty, and not for strength, were driven out in disgrace. Naturally, the equipment and shells of the basement rockers were from what they were blinded by enthusiast bodybuilders. Rails, pipes, car tires were used. Soviet newspapers were stigmatizing bodybuilders with might and main, equating them to convicts and bandits.

Vladimir Khomulev.

The winner of the first bodybuilding championship Vladimir Khomulev fell under the hand: he was sent to prison for propaganda of bodybuilding, accused of rape.

Eugene Koltun - the first athlete from the USSR, who got into the magazine Muscle & Fitness

The center of bodybuilding in the USSR was the distant periphery, and not Leningrad or Moscow. In 1967, the club "Antei" was opened in Tyumen, which was created by Eugene Koltun. In the next two years, significant athletic tournaments were held here, which attracted bodybuilders from all over the Union and even from Poland. There is a legend that Arnold Schwarzenegger found out about Antei and sent a package with magazines and books on bodybuilding to Tyumens pitching. In the early 1970s, a photograph with Tyumen bodybuilders and the caption appeared in one of the foreign publications on sports: We express gratitude to Mr. Koltun for the development of bodybuilding in Siberia.

The Soviet government took this as a slap in the face and began active harassment in the media. Soviet Sport, Izvestia and Moskovsky Komsomolets vied with each other to exhibit bodybuilders as alcoholic athletes who pose a danger to society. Fortunately, Eugene Koltun escaped with a friendly court.

Igor Petrukhin.

Igor Petrukhin is a circus artist who claims to be the winner of the first Soviet championship among bodybuilders. According to Petrukhin, this tournament was held in Moscow in 1966, although many bodybuilders say that it was not a competition, but bodybuilders posing in the park on a day off.

The persecution of bodybuilding ended only with the advent of perestroika: in 1986 in Lyubertsy the first allowed tournament was held. Gradually, the halls began to rise from the basements of the ZhEKs and gained popularity among the younger generation. In 1987, the USSR Athletic Federation appeared, and the next year the first official USSR athletics championship was held in Leningrad. In the same year, domestic bodybuilders performed at the World Championships in Australia, where they took a very worthy fourth place in the team event.

How did bodybuilders survive systematic bullying? By the beginning of the 1970s, when the USSR had finally entered the era of stagnation, everything was as bureaucratic as possible and most people were involved in simulating violent activity, supposedly to execute decrees from above. The housing system has become a loophole. Housing offices had to provide gas, water and electricity, and they did not want to organize the leisure of citizens, although formally it was their responsibility. Bodybuilders performed the role of a screen in terms of leisure of citizens. A typical report from one of the housing offices dating back to 1975 states: Among other things, we are developing sports. The labor collective and the youth of the district in the premises entrusted to us are engaged in strengthening strength and spirit through exercises with a barbell 30 exercises with dumbbells for those who want to pump the whole body and weights.

Soviet propaganda sprayed poisonous saliva; in the 1973 Sovetskiy Sport newspaper, the journalist fueled the atmosphere: Nobody asks recruits here where they are from, where they work, they study. Here, instead of coaches - chefs, and those who practice more often call each other by nicknames: Loader, School, Business, American, Loose ... If they knew that they would prophesy to themselves ...

In the late 1980s, in Lyubertsy, where there were many basement clubs, bodybuilders actually went into crime, united in a movement of lovers. The iron curtain burst at the seams, from which a stream of unimaginable things poured on naive Soviet bodybuilders. In addition to the huge flow of information, they gained access to such things as steroids and various pharmaceuticals.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Soviet bodybuilders, Soviet Union, Vladimir Dubinin, Yuri Vlasov