August 5, 2021

“Under Putin, sport is essentially political”

By Isabelle Mandraud

Posted today at 14:12

Lukas Aubin in Sochi, Russia in January 2020.

A doctorate in contemporary Slavic studies at the Center for Multidisciplinary and Multilingual Research at the University of Paris-Nanterre, Lukas Aubin has been traveling across Russia for ten years. He is the author of the book The Sportokratura under Vladimir Putin. A geopolitics of Russian sport, published in May by Editions Bréal, in which he describes a “Unique machinery in the world” mixing power, oligarchs and top athletes. The European football championship opened on June 11 with a controversy between Moscow and Kiev over the Ukrainian team’s jerseys.

Is the conflict between Moscow and Kiev also moving in the field of sport?

Russia and Ukraine haven’t faced each other in a big competition since 2014 [date de l’annexion de la Crimée et de l’intensification du conflit dans le Donbass]. Ukraine did not participate in the 2018 World Cup, which was held for the first time in Russia. She therefore used this “reunion” to reactivate the conflict in the eyes of the general public. A map of the country showing Crimea and two slogans, “Glory to Ukraine! ” and “Glory to the heroes! “, were printed on the national team jersey. And it worked. Social networks got carried away.

This deliberate move, of course, angered Russia. Uefa [Union des associations européennes de football européen] was forced to rule, but only the slogan “Glory to the heroes! “ [qui fait référence au soulèvement populaire de 2014 en Ukraine, lors de la chute du président Viktor Ianoukovitch] was withdrawn because it was considered too ” Politics “. The victory, in this respect, is clear for Ukraine. Russian leaders constantly call for the depoliticization of sport, but sport in Russia is essentially political.

Read also Euro 2021: questioned by Moscow, UEFA imposes to change Ukraine’s “political” jersey

Is there continuity in this area between the USSR and Putin’s Russia?

Yes, without a doubt. In 1917 and the years that followed, the question was: “What to do in sport?” »How to reconcile the spirit of competition and the revolutionary spirit? The answer was found in the 1920s, with the hygienist current and the glorification of the body of theHomo sovieticus. Then Stalin decided to join international sports bodies to participate in major competitions and prove to the world the superiority of the communist model. The USSR has achieved immense success, especially at the Olympics. The cold war integrates then a sporting dimension which will be won by Moscow. The conquest of records is played out in these two areas: space and sport.

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