Year of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Department or School/College
Department of History
Robert H. Greene
Jody Pavilack, Clint Walker
Soviet Union, Cold War, Soccer, Masculinity, Identity
University of Montana
At the end of World War Two, the Soviet Union occupied a new global position and found itself in a Cold War with the West. Cold War conflict occurred in a variety of areas, including military, political, and economic. Additionally, athletics became an arena of direct competition between capitalist and communist nations. Victory in the Olympics, World Cup, and other international tournaments became just as important as economic success or advancements in military technology. In many sports, such as ice hockey, the Soviet Union achieved superiority over the West, but regarding soccer, the nation’s most popular sport, the USSR struggled to accomplish consistent success.
The first national team of the Soviet Union lost early in its first tournament, but then brought in new players and coaches. The rebuilt roster won the next tournament and ushered in the most successful years of Soviet soccer, also known as the Golden Age. The period lasted from 1956 through 1966 and witnessed the only two international championships ever won by the Soviet Union. Many of the greatest soccer players in Soviet soccer history played during this era and propelled the national team to its greatest victories.
Despite the success on the field, questions and conflicts off the field continually transformed the characteristics of Soviet soccer. How did an influx of non-Russian soccer stars change the concept of masculinity in the Soviet Union? What types of behavior did Soviet authorities consider inappropriate and how did they propose to remedy such conduct? How did Soviet coaches integrate Soviet cultural values into their tactics and strategies while remaining competitive with Western nations? In what ways did political and military conflict affect how Soviet soccer was played and who they competed against? Overall, the Golden Age of Soviet soccer was an era not only of athletic success, but also a period of transformation that mirrored changes in Soviet society as a whole during the same years.
Wright, Caleb, "The Beautiful Game as a Soviet Game: Sportsmanship, Style, and Statecraft during the Golden Age of Soviet Soccer" (2018). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 11198.
© Copyright 2018 Caleb Wright