Control, Order and Regulation: Reforming the Soviet Athletes’ Pay after the Second World War

Struggles to Define the Framework for Practising Sports
By Sylvain Dufraisse

The term ‘state athlete’ has often been used to describe the Soviet approach to paying athletes. Yet this term applies an outside interpretation to the situation within the USSR, without taking into account the social realities and the conflicts between actors. This article shows how, just after the Second World War, a unique compensation system was set up. This system aimed to regulate a sporting world that was characterised by a lack of organisation and a physical culture administration that had little influence over powerful sports clubs. The turning point towards competitive sport began in the mid-1930s. This fostered the emergence of ‘spaces of freedom’ for athletes and sports clubs : additional bonuses, fictitious jobs, an inflation in perks. After the Second World War, Soviet sports grew closer to international federations, and these practices proved incompatible with their regulations. The period also saw a large number of socioeconomic reforms. Stipends, awarded by the Supreme Council of Physical Culture and volunteer sports clubs, were distributed beginning in 1947 in order to tackle ‘excesses’. Directives set the amounts of stipends and levelled revenues among different athletes. These stipends showed that the central administration was taking strong control of the sports movement.

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