Russian President Vladimir Putin recently announced the revival of a storied Soviet tradition. Speaking at an event to celebrate Russia’s success at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Putin said that resurrecting a Soviet program of physical education that certified people of all ages for “Readiness to Labor and Defense” (GTO), would ”pay homage to [Russia's] national historical traditions.”
The announcement was not unexpected. Blogger Andrei Malgin first posted the rumor on his blog two weeks prior, observing [ru]:
То есть они будут не пробуждать у детей интерес к спорту, а собираются принуждать их заниматься спортом. Они сделают спорт постылой необходимостью. Зачем?
Meaning that instead of getting children interested in sports, they will make them be involved in sports. They will make sport a hateful necessity. For what?
In a post titled: “Hello, Sparta” blogger alis_svs wondered [ru] what would happen to children who are unable to participate for health reasons:
Каждый третий ребёнок в Москве к 3 годам уже имеет ХОБЛ, о количестве прочих заболеваний деликатно умолчу…
A third of Moscow children have COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] by the time they turn 3, I will tactfully remain silent on the number of other illnesses…
After the announcement was made, some of the older bloggers recalled the experience as one of the horrors of Soviet Schools. One blogger wrote [ru]:
Я ненавидела физру в школе. Люто, бешено ненавидела. [...] Как вспомню – мороз по коже. Мерзкие сатиновые трусы на резинках, черный низ-белый верх, всем стать в строй, на первый-второй рассчитайсь…Господи, неужто непонятно?! Нельзя, нельзя, нельзя ЗАСТАВЛЯТЬ людей сдавать какие-то бредовые “нормы”. Нет никаких норм! Патология это!
I hated phys-ed in school. Fiercely, violently loathed it. [...] When I think about it I get the creeps. The nasty satin briefs with the elastic bands, black bottoms-white tops, everyone falling into line [...] God, is it really not clear?! You cannot, cannot, cannot FORCE people to surrender to some kind of delusional “norm.” There are no norms! This is pathological!
There were some positive responses to the decree. Tatiana Malkina wrote on her Facebook wall [ru]:
это странно и непопулярно, я знаю…но у меня не было никаких, совсем никаких проблем с нормами гто. я даже единственная из девочек муляж гранаты бросала на требуемые 11 метров…. почему-то не вызывло у меня все это дело ни отторжения, ни протеста. проблемы были только с политинформацией, историей и иногда – литературой.
It is strange and unpopular, I know… but I had absolutely no problems with the GTO standards. I was even the only girl who threw a dummy grenade at the required 11 meters…. for some reason this whole thing did not make me reject or protest. My problems were only with political information, history, and sometimes literature.
This is not the first health drive the Kremlin has initiated during Putin’s presidency. A 2011 law sought to incrementally increase taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, so that the price would nearly double by 2014.In addition, a law went into effect last June prohibiting smoking in public places. But perhaps the authorities were trying to take advantage of popular patriotism after Russia’s incursion into Crimea. As one blogger remarked [ru]: “They are preparing us for war.”