6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
Robert Edelman, professor of Russian history and the history of sport at the University of California, San Diego will lead a panel discussion on his latest book entitled Spartak Moscow: A History of the People’s Team in the Workers’ State which examines one of the most successful Soviet soccer clubs of all-time. Champions of the Soviet Elite League twelve times and eleven-time winner of the USSR Cup, Spartak was founded and led for seven decades by the four Starostin brothers, the most visible of whom were Nikolai and Andrei. Brilliant players turned skilled entrepreneurs, they were flexible enough to constantly change their business model to accommodate the dramatic shifts in Soviet policy. Whether because of their own business ventures or Spartak’s too frequent success against state-sponsored teams, they were arrested in 1942 and spent twelve years in the gulag. Instead of facing hard labor and likely death, they were spared the harshness of their places of exile when they were asked by local camp commandants to coach the prisoners’ soccer teams. Returning from the camps after Stalin’s death, they took back the reins of a club whose mystique as the “people’s team” was only enhanced by its status as a victim of Stalinist tyranny.
Edelman covers the team from its days on the wild fields of pre-revolutionary Russia through the post-Soviet period. Spartak adjusted quickly to the new, capitalist world of post-socialist Russia, going on to win the championship of the Russian Premier League nine times, the Russian Cup three times, and the CIS Commonwealth of Independent States Cup six times. In addition to providing a fresh and authoritative history of Soviet society as seen through its obsession with the world’s most popular sport, Edelman, a well-known sports commentator, also provides biographies of Spartak’s leading players over the course of a century and riveting play-by-play accounts of Spartak’s most important matches-including such highlights as the day in 1989 when Spartak last won the Soviet Elite League on a Valery Shmarov free kick at the ninety-second minute.
Joining Edelman on the panel is Christopher Young, Reader in Modern and Medieval German Studies and Head of the Department of German and Dutch at the University of Cambridge and author of The 1972 Munich Olympics and the Making of Modern Germany. Spartak Moscow was awarded the North American Society for Sport History (NASSH) book award in 2010 and The 1972 Munich Olympics and the Making of Modern Germany was awarded the prize in 2011.
Blair Ruble, director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute will chair the event.