Liberation and Containment: Re-Visualising the Eugenic and Evolutionary Ideal of the "Fizkul'turnitsa" in 1944
The International journal of the history of sport 2011; 28(8-9): 1319-335
In July 1944 cross-country races and parades of physical culturists were prominently used to celebrate Soviet liberation from German occupation. While journalistic accounts stressed the manly health and vigour of the victorious Red Army, press photographs in Pravda and Red Sport, and Aleksandr Deneika's monumental painting 'Liberation', emphasised images of the young female physical culturist. This essay explores what a contextualised analysis of these images may have to tell historians about the connections between women, physical culture and liberation being projected. The argument suggests that, on one level, the images straightforwardly symbolised and celebrated the liberation of the Soviet 'Motherland'. On another, more complex level, the images represented a particularly nuanced notion of constricted liberation for Soviet women deriving from 1920s eugenic and evolutionary discourse, inscribed into the contemporary imperative for engagement with physical culture as a necessary stage of healthful body discipline on the path to hygienic and successful motherhood.
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