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Everyone to Skis!
Skiing in Russia and the Rise of Soviet Biathlon
William D. Frank
“You will never think about, watch, (perhaps even participate in) biathlon in the same way after reading Frank's interesting, well-written and organized, detailed and thoroughly researched book.” —E. John B. Allen, author of The Culture and Sport of Skiing: From Antiquity to World War II
“Frank highlights the importance of skiing in the Russian Civil War and the Second World War, as well as the 1974 World Biathlon Championships in Minsk, when this event took place on Soviet soil for the first time . . . Frank’s excellent history of skiing also makes the Soviet Union’s efforts in 1945 to ban skiing in occupied Germany far more understandable.” —Heather L. Dichter, H-Diplo
Nowhere in the world was the sport of biathlon, a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle marksmanship, taken more seriously than in the Soviet Union, and no other nation garnered greater success at international venues. From the introduction of modern biathlon in 1958 to the USSR's demise in 1991, athletes representing the Soviet Union won almost half of all possible medals awarded in world championship and Olympic competition. Biathletes of the USSR were so dominant that at major events their victory was often a foregone conclusion.
Yet more than sheer technical skill created Soviet superiority in biathlon. The inherent characteristics of biathlon, which required stamina and precision in a quasi-military setting, dovetailed with important concepts promoted by the Soviet government. The sport also supplied an opportune platform for promoting the State's socialist viewpoint and military might. Biathlon, in other words, was about more than simply winning Olympic medals.
Currently the most popular winter spectator sport in Europe, biathlon looms large in the history of global athletics, and in the event's early narrative the Soviet Union was its most important player. William D. Frank, a former nationally-ranked competitor and a scholar of Russian history, is in a unique position to tell this story. His highly readable book is the first in-depth look at how the Soviet government interpreted the sport of skiing as a cultural, ideological, and political tool throughout the course of seven decades.
For scholars and general readers alike, Everyone To Skis! represents a fascinating perspective on the Soviet Union through the history of a sport closely tied to the homeland. In the words of Lenin: “Do you ski? Do it without fail! Learn how and set off for the mountains - you must. In the mountains winter is wonderful! It's sheer delight, and it smells like Russia.”
William D. Frank earned his PhD in History at the University of Washington. He competed in the United States Biathlon Team Selection Trials for the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York and the 1981 Biathlon World Championships in Lahti, Finland, the United States Biathlon Qualification Race Series for the 1984 Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, the United States Biathlon National Championships of 1979 and 1981, and the United States National Cross-Country Championships of 1985. He is an occasional lecturer in History and Humanities at Central Washington University.
Oct. (2013) 424pp.,13 illus.
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