Document Type


Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2021

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Roxanne Easley

Second Committee Member

Jason Knirck

Third Committee Member

Dan Herman


Sport served many purposes in the Soviet Union, as it has in most modern societies. This study examines the relationship between state-sponsored imperatives for citizens to engage in sport and exercise and cultural norms in the Soviet Union during the Khrushchev years, 1953-1964. It also examines the attempted creation of a class of people who exhibited proletarian engagement with work, but also possessed bourgeois cultural tastes. A variety of visual and text-based primary sources from Russian-language magazines and poster campaigns were analyzed for their tone, content, and cultural signifiers. The sources yielded a view of Soviet society in which the government under Khrushchev was actively attempting to create a socialist middle class who possessed a proletarian work ethic, but also were well-versed in bourgeois culture and taste, heightening contradictions stemming from Stalin’s implementation of the Big Deal. The Cold War informed a great many of these cultural imperatives, and Khrushchev’s stated goal from 1956 onward was to directly compete with the United States through cultural means rather than via full-on military conflict. This work also folds in elements of class and gender history, examining the methods by which the Khrushchev government used sport and fitness to impose gender-normative roles onto the working class.

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