THE FINAL CURTAIN : Footprints : Culture and Sports

The arts and athletics, like nearly everything in the Soviet Union, have been dominated by the state. Beginning in 1934, all forms of art had to conform to the contradictory edicts of “socialist realism"--which mandated that art reflect both revolutionary enthusiasm and the objective portrayal of reality. State-encouraged physical fitness has produced remarkable accomplishments. Some examples of Soviet excellence in culture and sports:


Nobel laureates in literature include:

Boris Pasternak--He initially accepted the 1958 prize only to decline it six days later due to pressure from Moscow. Most famous work: “Doctor Zhivago.”


Mikhail Sholokhov--He considered himself a loyal Communist first and a writer second. He received the award in 1965. Most famous work: “And Quiet Flows the Don.”

Alexander Solzhenitsyn--The 1970 prizewinner was stripped of his Soviet citizenship in 1974 and exiled for his opposition to the Communist regime. Most famous work: “The Gulag Archipelago.”


Musicians with an international following include composers Serge Rachmaninov; Dmitri Shostakovich, designated a Soviet “Hero of Socialist Labor”; Igor Stravinsky, who came to the United States in 1939; and Serge Prokofiev, who created the well-known works “Peter and the Wolf” and “Classical Symphony.”



International ballet stars include:

The Bolshoi’s prima ballerina Maya Plisetskaya who for many years was not permitted to travel with the dance company because she was viewed as a defection risk. Mikhail Baryshnikov of the Kirov Ballet of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) who in 1974 defected during a tour in Toronto. Other well-known Soviet ballet stars who defected to foreign countries and instantly became non-persons in their homeland include Rudolf Nureyev, Natalia Makarova and Alexander Godunov.



Beginning in 1952, when they sent their first team to participate in the Summer Games in Helsinki, the Soviets have dominated the Games--collecting more gold medals than any other country. Soviet Olympic superstars include gymnast Olga Korbut, pole vaulter Sergei Bubka, basketball player Arvidas Sabonis and figure skaters Oleg Protopopov and Ludmilla Beloussova. Olympic Medals 1952 - 1988 (Summer and Winter Games)

USSR USA Gold medals 473 402 Total medals 1,212 933