A healthy lifestyle was an important aspect of the Soviet design for the state and the individual. Healthy children became healthy adults, physically fit for the work required of them by the authorities. The idealisation of exercise came to its peak in the programme ‘Gotov k trudu i oborone’ (‘Ready for work and defence’). The programme ran for 60 years, setting training targets for all ages.

Exercise was keenly promoted through school and organisational activity. The Pioneer movement, for children aged 10–15, brought up its members as defenders of the Communist Party and its aims. Among their activities, sport and exercise served to help them maintain the motto ‘Always ready!

Soviet sporting pride came to its peak in 1980, when Moscow was the primary host of the 22nd Olympic Games. Although several countries boycotted them in protest at the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the Games were a success. The Soviets led the medal board, and Soviet infrastructure had proved equal to the logistical task of hosting the Games.

Browse the exhibition