We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Everyone to Skis!

Skiing in Russia and the Rise of Soviet Biathlon

William D. Frank

Publication Year: 2013

Nowhere in the world was the sport of biathlon, a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle marksmanship, taken more seriously than in the Soviet Union, and no other nation garnered greater success at international venues. From the introduction of modern biathlon in 1958 to the USSR’s demise in 1991, athletes representing the Soviet Union won almost half of all possible medals awarded in world championship and Olympic competition. The inherent characteristics of biathlon, which requires stamina and precision in a quasi-military setting, dovetailed with important concepts promoted by the Soviet government. The sport also supplied an opportune platform for promoting the State’s socialist viewpoint and military might. Biathlon, in other words, was about more than simply winning Olympic medals. Currently the most popular winter spectator sport in Europe, biathlon looms large in the history of global athletics, and in the event’s early narrative the Soviet Union was its most important player. William D. Frank, a former nationally ranked competitor and a scholar of Russian history, is in a unique position to tell this story. His highly readable book is the first in-depth look at how the Soviet government interpreted the sport of skiing as a cultural, ideological, and political tool throughout the course of seven decades. For scholars and general readers alike, Everyone to Skis! represents a fascinating perspective on the Soviet Union through the history of a sport closely tied to the homeland. In the words of Lenin: “Do you ski? Do it without fail! Learn how and set off for the mountains—you must. In the mountains winter is wonderful! It’s sheer delight, and it smells like Russia.”

Published by: Northern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (60.9 KB)
pp. 1-6


pdf iconDownload PDF (65.5 KB)
pp. vii-ix

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (57.9 KB)
pp. xi-xii

Over the course of four decades, I have been privileged to study with outstanding linguists. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge in particular the influence of Elizabeth McKee; Professors Sylvia Brown and William Moran (University of Michigan); Professors Anthony Raubitschek and T....

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (110.2 KB)
pp. 3-12

Biathlon, that unlikely combination of cross-country skiing and rifle marksmanship, was a woefully underfinanced and neglected sport throughout North America in 1978, the first year I went to the United States Olympic Training Center in Squaw Valley, California. Always on...

read more

1—Long Boards in the Long Nineteenth Century

pdf iconDownload PDF (189.0 KB)
pp. 13-40

Less than a year before the Bolsheviks seized power in Petrograd, Vladimir Lenin offered this revolutionary advice to his mistress and fellow conspirator, the French socialist-feminist Inessa Armand: “Do you ski? Do it without fail! Learn how and set off for the mountains—you...

read more

2—The First World War to NEP

pdf iconDownload PDF (175.1 KB)
pp. 41-68

The F irst World War changed the map of Europe and set the stage for hostilities two decades later that resulted in Cold War polarization and, in the realm of sports, brought politics directly into the Olympic Games. Even more than Western Europe, the Great War transformed Russia...

read more

3—Stalin and the Inter-War Years

pdf iconDownload PDF (165.7 KB)
pp. 69-87

It is no coincidence that two important historians of the Soviet Union chose the same excerpt from Joseph Stalin’s 1929 essay “A Year of Great Change” to introduce their respective chapters on his twenty-fouryear tenure: “We are advancing full steam ahead along the road of industrialization...

read more

4—The Winter War and the Great Patriotic War,1939–1945

pdf iconDownload PDF (172.3 KB)
pp. 88-113

In early January 1940 , a dispatch from James Aldridge, war correspondent for the New York Times covering the Soviet invasion of Finland, detailed a gruesome landscape along the forest roads just west of the Russian border. As he accompanied an advancing ski patrol in pursuit of...

read more

5—Post-War Soviet Sports and the Birth of Biathlon [Includes Image Plates]

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.5 MB)
pp. 114-152

The Soviet Union paid a terrible price for the Allied victory in World War II, including the devastation of tens of thousands of cities and villages and the loss of 27,000,000 citizens. The conflagration informed virtually every aspect of Soviet life in the aftermath. As historian Elena...

read more

6—Skiing, Shooting and Politics, 1960 to 1962

pdf iconDownload PDF (213.4 KB)
pp. 153-187

Dizzy with success , to appropriate Stalin’s famous maxim, the Soviets reveled in the prospect of repeating their 1956 Olympic performance in Squaw Valley, California, four years later.1 What better propaganda bonus than to dominate the Winter Games again—this time on the...

read more

7—The Triumph of Soviet Biathlon, 1963 to 1966

pdf iconDownload PDF (179.1 KB)
pp. 188-213

Early in 19 3 , Viktor Viktorov, Ogonek’s die-hard ski enthusiast, reminisced about the golden glory days of the Soviet Union at the 1956 Cortina Olympics in comparison to the National Team’s more recent world championship showing in Poland: “Bronze medals,” he grumbled...

read more

8—The Era of Aleksandr Tikhonov

pdf iconDownload PDF (140.5 KB)
pp. 214-231

At the opening event of the 2010 United States Summer National Biathlon Championships in Seattle, Washington, two rifles stood side by side on a gun-rack. Each bore a distinctive white sticker with “Alexander Tikhonov & MA” embossed in a black Latin-letter font. One rifleowner...

read more

9—Minsk: Thirteenth Biathlon World Championships, 1974

pdf iconDownload PDF (153.3 KB)
pp. 232-250

In late February 1974, the Soviet Union’s decades-long drive for recognition as a major ski power soared to a new level when two skiers from the USSR placed first and third in the junior men’s 15-kilometer biathlon, winning the first medals ever awarded at an international world championship ski race...

read more

10—The Fifteenth Winter Olympic Games: Calgary, Canada, 1988

pdf iconDownload PDF (212.4 KB)
pp. 251-282

The Norwegian delegation’s team leader offered a few words of solace to readers of Sovetskaia Belorussiia as the world’s biathletes departed Minsk in 1974: “The ‘reshuffle’ in biathlon is a natural phenomenon,” he proposed. “Every sportsman, every team alternates between ‘peaks’ and ‘valleys.’ So...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (83.5 KB)
pp. 283-289

Just three months after the closing ceremonies at the 1988 Calgary Olympics, President of the United States Ronald Reagan received a standing ovation as he entered Moscow State University’s main auditorium. He was in the Soviet Union at the behest of Mikhail Gorbachev for a series of...


pdf iconDownload PDF (365.2 KB)
pp. 291-358


pdf iconDownload PDF (166.1 KB)
pp. 359-380


pdf iconDownload PDF (101.9 KB)
pp. 381-396

E-ISBN-13: 9781609090937
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875804767

Page Count: 424
Illustrations: 13 halftones
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Skis and skiing -- Russia (Federation) -- History.
  • Biathlon -- Russia (Federation) -- History.
  • Sports and state -- Russia (Federation) -- History.
  • Sports and society -- Russia (Federation) -- History.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access