While it was common knowledge that Soviet sports would be socialist, immediately after the Revolution, few knew what that would look like. The 1920s favored non-competitive outside activities that would nurture collectivism and egalitarianism; a spirit that the Cultural Revolution turned into utilitarian program to build strong wills and bodies for the revolutionary struggle. It would be left up to the mature socialist culture of Stalinism to sponsor gymnastic displays for holiday demonstrations, and spectator sports that bred star athletes and passive, if rabid, spectator-fans.
The Body Beautiful
Stalin’s Soviet Union, like its contemporary Nazi Germany, sought to inscribe its ideology on the body of its subjects. The health and beauty of the Soviet body was evidence of socialism’s success in creating a healthy and beautiful society. The Soviets abstained from participating in the Olympic movement until after WWII, preferring to sponsor the socialist athletic games, the Spartakiad (named after Spartacus). Thus it avoided complicity in the 1936 Berlin Games. Nonetheless it shared the association of physical vitality with social vitality.