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Win or Else: Soviet Football in Moscow and Beyond, 1921–1985

Larry E. Holmes

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From the publisher:

In Win or Else, Larry E. Holmes shows us how Soviet football culture regularly disregarded official ideological and political imperatives and skirted the boundaries between socialism and capitalism. In the early 1920s, the Soviet press denounced football as a bourgeois sport that was injurious to both mind and body.

Within that same decade, however, it blew up, becoming the most popular spectator sport in the USSR and growing into a fiercely competitive business with complex regional and national bureaucracies, a strong international presence, and a conviction that victory on the field was also a victory of Soviet supremacy. Writing as both historian and fan, Holmes focuses his study on the provincial Kirov team Dinamo from 1979 to 1985, when the club played at both its worst and its best. Spurred by a dismal 1979 season, the team's administrators and regional authorities had two options: obey Moscow's edict to reduce expenditures on professional sports or seek out new—and often illicit—funding sources to fill out a team of champions.

Drawing on rich archival materials as well as newspapers and interviews with former players, Win or Else reveals the foundations of Soviet sports culture—and the hazards that teams faced both in victory and in loss.

The author:

Larry E. Holmes authored several books on Soviet Russia, including The Kremlin and the Schoolhouse: Reforming Education in Soviet Russia, 1917-1931 and Revising the Revolution: The Unmaking of Russia's Official History of 1917. He was Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Alabama. Holmes passed away on November 30, 2022, in Kirov, Russia.Samantha Lomb is Assistant Professor in the Department of Foreign Languages at Vyatka State University in Kirov, Russia. She is author of Stalin's Constitution: Soviet Participatory Politics and the Discussion of the 1936 Draft Constitution.

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Indiana University Press
23 x 15 cm
Paperback
230 pages
Contains 26 photographs
April 2024
English
9780253069634