2020 essay


Cultural Change in Central Asia: Brezhnev, Sports, and Memories in Uzbekistan, 1964 to 1982

History Studies–International Journal of History, Feb 2020

The Cold War Soviet leaders Nikita Khrushchev (d. 1971) and Leonid Brezhnev (d. 1982), between 1953 and 1982, continued with Vladimir Lenin’s (d. 1924) and Joseph Stalin’s (d. 1953) physical culture policy designed to create healthier citizen-workers and soldiers. The underlining concept was to construct a communist society. In the process, the Soviet culture and sports culture played a role in integrating the different ethnic groups into the multinational Soviet Union. Leonid Brezhnev (Communist Party leader from 1964 to 1982) consolidated and expanded the Soviet sports system, albeit in a changing historical context. Our paper, firstly, describes the concept of Soviet modernity and physical culture. Secondly, in the context of Brezhnev’s tenure, we investigate the development of the modern sports infrastructure in Tashkent, and the numerical growth of the ordinary and the elite sportspeople in Uzbekistan. Thirdly, to explain what this meant to the everyday Central Asian, we have incorporated their oral histories into our study. This inclusion of the people’s memories will provide us with a bottom-up perspective of Soviet sport, and enrich our understanding of the ordinary citizen’s relationship with the Soviet Union’s sports culture.

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