[Moscow]: Fizkul’tura i sport, . Item #1497
170 pp.: ill. 23x31 cm. In original dark blue cloth with colored lettering and decoration. Rubbed, ink signature (1928) on front flyleaf, light soiling of corners occasionally, otherwise very good and clean internally.
Together with: Advertising brochure. Spartakiada [i.e. Spartakiad]. Moscow: Fizkul’tura i sport, . 12 pp.: ill. 11x15 cm. In original illustrated wrappers with same design. Mint, with minor tears of spine and front cover.
First and only edition. Cover design was produced by the master of propaganda posters, Avenir Chernomordik (1897–1991), the title page design was created by type designer and book illustrator, Vsevolod Filippov (1893–1976). Photomontages were made by Chernomordik, Filippov and Shebuev.
Album about the first national sports event held in the USSR. After the Bolsheviks seized power, Russia was excluded from the international Olympic movement. In the summer of 1928, the Soviet Union organized its own sporting games. They were dedicated to the first Five Year Plan and ten years’ of the Soviet physical culture movement.
Soon after the Revolution, the first physical culture and sports circles were formed, including “Muravei” (Moscow), “Spartak” (Petrograd), “Krasny Molodnyak” (Minsk), etc. Athletic tracks and related facilities were built throughout the country, and physical culture societies were established within factories and organizations. Sporting sections in Leningrad were named after Spartacus and, just like German pro-communist sports events, local Soviet competitions became known as spartakiades. The Soviet authorities decided to hold the 1st All-Union Spartakiad in Moscow in 1928. According to communist ideologists, the Olympic Games were individualistic competitions alien to the Soviet spirit, while the Spartakiade was supposed “to become a holiday for workers and to serve the cause of educating the proletariat and improving class consciousness”.
Encouraging the international proletarian movement, Norway hosted The First International Winter Workers’ Spartakiad in February 1928. At that time, the Soviet Embassy’s chief emissary to Norway was Alexandra Kollontai, and he fully supported this initiative. Among the participants were 63 Soviet athletes competing in skiing, speed skating, etc.
By August 1928, the Soviet promotion of physical culture among young men and women had increased significantly. The national sporting games were prepared for by the construction of new stadiums, water and rowing stations, sports halls and playing surfaces. All over the country, there was a determined struggle for the right to contribute to this unprecedented sports festival in Moscow. The competitions were held in the new Dynamo stadium that was specially built for the event. About 7 million people took part in the Spartakiade, including more than 600 foreign athletes from 13 different countries.
The program was extensive and consisted of all Olympic sports, as well as folk activities like gorodki. The sporting achievements of the Spartakiade were comparable with the 1928 Olympic Games that ended shortly before it. Records set by Soviet athletes were a fillip to a new culture of national sporting achievement, and anticipated future triumphs achieved at major international competitions.
The idea to produce the album came about after the games had finished, so they used pre-existing material gathered by photojournalists and agencies. It features photographs by M. Alpert, V. Chemko, M. Galperin, P. Grokhovskii, D. Debabov, A. Kabalov, M. Khan, S. Krasinskii, V. Loboda, V. Orlovskii, P. Romanov, V. Savel’ev, I. Iaroslavskii and other contributors to Sovkino, Press-klishe, and Russ-foto.
High-quality montages demonstrate the value of the constructivist arrangement of pictures. A large-scale composition on two double-pages at the beginning of the album shows columns of sportspeople, civilians, military personnel and people in national costumes, the composition framed by a hand-drawn palisade of flags.
It resembles Dziga Vertov’s film “Kino-Eye” (1924) which was shot in Moscow and Kiev.
The frenetic pace of city-life, including sport, leisure and art, are as yet unconstrained by political circumstances and regulation. The design of “Spartakiad” seems excessive at first: each spread has its own look: flags, borders, rules, decorated capitals, the layout of the photographs and material all differ but express in full measure the aesthetics of the NEP era, mixing the principles of principles of “Mir Iskusstva” [the World of Art] and constructivism. Both approaches merely provide surface decoration borrowed for the occasion. This is demonstrated by the cover and the title page, the design of which might have been used for a cigarette packet, biscuit tin, chocolate box or pack of razor-blades.
The 1928 Spartakiad was vividly promoted through Russian art: colorful posters were published and numerous newsreels were shot. In particular, groundbreaking collages were specially created by Gustav Klutsis for a series of postcards which became a valuable piece of Russian avant-garde heritage.
For a long time, Spartakiads were held as official proletarian alternatives to the Olympic Games, though the Soviet Union did join the International Olympics in 1952.
Worldcat lists copies located in Princeton and Notre Dame Universities, Getty Institute, NYPL.
Karasik, M. Heiting, M. The Soviet Photobook 1920–1941. p.136.