TIME

Putin Is Reviving a Stalinist Fitness Program to Whip Russians Into Shape

Children pour cold water on themselves during regular exercises in Krasnoyarsk
Children run back to a building after pouring cold water on themselves as part of a fitness program in Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk © Ilya Naymushin – Reuters

Any connection between present Crimea tensions and Putin's desire to have a fighting-fit population are of course coincidental

Vladimir Putin wants to improve the physical fitness of Russians of all ages, and to achieve that he has turned to the era of brutal dictator Joseph Stalin for inspiration.

On Monday, he announced that a Stalinist fitness program from the 1930s, called “Ready for Labor and Defense,” will be revived and funded by leftover cash from the Sochi Winter Olympics.

It hasn’t been revealed what the modern version of the program will consist of, but back in the U.S.S.R it required comrade citizens to enter competitions in sports like running, jumping, skiing, swimming, and, well, grenade throwing. Tests were set and those who passed were given gold and silver badges that were worn with pride on proletarian chests.

The program, known by the Russian initials GTO, was originally launched to raise the fitness of the population, so that citizens were ready to work and fight for the Soviet Union. Citizens of all ages took part until GTO died out during the Soviet collapse.

The revived GTO will start in September, and there will be an annual report informing the President and the public of the progress of the program, which Putin said will “pay homage to our national historical traditions.”

[Reuters]

 

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