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  • "Our Own Internationale," 1966Dynamo Kiev Fans between Local Identity and Transnational Imagination
  • Manfred Zeller (bio)

On 8 November 1966, Nikita Lavrent´evich Naselenko was glued to the television in his apartment on Leningrad's Ulitsa Karpinskogo. He was scared several times by the ball coming closer to Kiev's goal and breathed a sigh of relief each time the danger faded.1 Meanwhile, in Moscow's Lenin Stadium in Luzhniki, where the cup final between Torpedo Moscow and Dynamo Kiev was taking place, the photographer Baringol´ts was not only paying attention to the field: for a short moment, he looked toward the stands. Some of the spectators were holding banners. One of them referred to the gold medals that had just been awarded to Dynamo Kiev after winning the Soviet championship: "The medals we've got, the cup you'll give us!!" Another banner said: "The frost won't save Torpedo. Dynamo will seize the cup!!!"

Baringol´ts snapped a picture (Figure 1): covered in scarves, caps, and winter coats, the spectators were freezing but smiling. Later on, in the press, [End Page 53] one could read that 70,000 spectators had appeared at this game, filling the 103,000-seat Luzhniki Stadium almost to capacity.2

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Figure 1.

"The Frost Won't Save Torpedo": Dynamo Kiev Fans during the Cup Final of 1966

Source: Tsentral´nyi derzhavnyi kinofotofonoarkhiv Ukrainy (TsDKU) 0-111801

(photograph by Baringol´ts). Reproduced with permission.

[End Page 54]

Dynamo Kiev's player Andrei Andreevich Biba scored a goal in the 73rd minute, bringing the score to Kiev 2, Torpedo 0.3 In Leningrad, Nikita Naselenko was beside himself with joy; in his apartment, he applauded "passionately" (goriacho).4 Although she could not see him and probably did not know him, Helle Rätsepp from Tartu raion in Estonia did exactly the same at this moment: she applauded in front of her TV. Later, she wrote to Dynamo Kiev that in the future she would keep applauding them in the same manner, regardless of whether they responded to her letter.5 Nikita Naselenko and Helle Rätsepp were not the only ones applauding. As Naselenko wrote later to the team: "In front of our television sets we applauded … together with the thousands of your fans in Lenin Stadium in Moscow."6

The overall image—of a collective experience in which people applauded, far away from one another, in diverse Soviet republics—reflects the integrating power of soccer as a transnational Soviet media event. The event was transnational in that the euphoria for Dynamo Kiev crossed the boundaries of national groups and the borders of national republics. And it was Soviet in that these letter writers described themselves in a way that corresponded to depictions of fans in the Soviet sports press and to ideas of socialist internationalism: fans of various nationalities had expressed their equally strong emotions by applauding in their apartments during the game and by sending letters to a police team from Kiev, which represented not only the capital of one of the national republics but also the Dynamo sports organization sponsored by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.7

The practice of letter writing to a police team represents a strong commitment from these citizens, given that at this time there existed no organized fan culture or active team support in the stadium through fan chants and distinctive battle calls.8 Their spontaneous but strong experience of community and belonging is the subject of this article. Since the Khrushchev era, the old practices of petition and letter writing in Russian political culture had again [End Page 55] been promoted to "activate the population through direct participation."9 In the 1960s, "visual and textual representations of consumption" were used to activate such forms of communication, with images of "ideal consumers" accompanying the discussion of various consumer goods to create a popular consumer culture that was in line with such Soviet values as culturedness.10

The analysis of the reception of such images is important, because unlike earlier images, they were received and interpreted by a broad, diverse segment of the Soviet population. I intend to focus...