Moscow G.V. Plekhanov Institute of National Economy (Mining): physical education history in 1950ies


I.V. Tarasova1
Dr.Sc.Hist., Professor I.M. Kornilova1
M.V. Sokolov1
PhD, Associate Professor T.I. Savinchenko1
Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, Moscow


Keywords: physical education, physical culture, sport, physical education curriculum, higher education institution, MINE, GTO.

Background. The Physical Education discipline came through a complicated establishment and development process in the second half or the XX century. It took a few decades for the sector actors governed by the relevant global development trends, national government policies and enthusiasm of the leading specialists to implement the Physical Education discipline in the general education school and university systems with the relevant curricula and training models. The initiative was quite successful as verified by the progress of the USSR and Russian athletes on the global arenas and progress in the national health standards.

In the post-war period, the national government gave a special priority to the physical education issues. It was in 1947/48 academic year that, pursuant to the Ministry of Education of the USSR and Head of the Physical Education and Sports Committee under the Cabinet of Ministers of the USSR Joint Order #1690 “On the actions to improve academic physical education and sports”, most of the national universities re-established their physical education and sports departments. The initiative was supported by the Academic Physical Education Statute and Curricula developed by the relevant national government agency to systemise the education process. In 1948, the Central Committee of the Communist Party issued a degree formulating the key mission of mass physical education defined as the mass sport progress to train elite athletes able to take the lead in the key sport disciplines.

As a result, the first- and second-year academic curricula all over the country were revised to include mandatory physical education discipline of 140 hours per year including 10 hours of theoretical studies, with the relevant yearly curricula, examination systems and education process planning, accounting and reporting documents [4. p. 63]. Since then the academic physical education system included the basic and elective courses plus field events including mass sport competitions and festivals.

It should be mentioned in this context that the academic education curricula have been designed largely in compliance with the GTO Complex test standards, with the students obliged to get trained for the GTO Complex Class II tests, and with the Physical Education and Sports Departments reporting the numbers of the GTO Badge winners as a result of the tests. With this purpose in view, the obligatory physical education course included trainings in gymnastics, skiing, swimming and track and field sports. In addition, the mass sport progress in the USSR received a great boost after our country joined the Olympic movement and established its national Olympic Committee in 1951.

The chronological frame of the study was determined by the following considerations. It was in 1951-52 that a new academic physical education curriculum was endorsed and implemented based on the best practical experience of the leading universities accumulated after the shortcut physical education contest of the universities was launched a few years before [3, p. 3]. Since 1956/57 academic year, the Soviet academic physical education and sport system entered its new development stage [1, p. 62].

Objective of the study was to make a historical analysis of the Plekhanov Moscow Institute of National Economy (MINE) Physical Education and Sports Department progress in the 1950ies.

Methods and structure of the study. In the data mining process for the study, we applied the archive materials of the Moscow Central Archive (Fund Р-489) with the historical documents of MINE operations (curricula, reports, minutes of Physical Education and Sports Department sessions etc.) and the relevant legal and regulatory documents that regulated the Soviet physical education process at that time. Based on these data and analyses we identified the key problems faced by the MINE Physical Education and Sports Department in the period and the solutions found.

Study results and discussion. In 1952-57, operations of the MINE Physical Education and Sports Department were determined by the following core missions set forth by the government: advance the academic physical education; train students for the GTO Complex tests and sport qualifications; and select gifted university athletes for special competitive training and progress.

In 1953/54, the PESD was staffed by only 17 full-time and 8 part-time educators [553, p.151]; and in 1957/58 the faculty was expanded to 20 full-time, 15 part-time educators and 2 piano accompanists [10, p. 225], with the Department being chaired first by A.V. Postnov and then by V.P. Pavlovskiy at that time.

In the study period, the most critical needs reported by the Department were the following: need for the special sport gyms and equipment; need for theoretical and practical manuals for sport disciplines; and need for an academic progress rating system.

It was in 1952/53 that the Department faced particularly acute shortage of training facilities. The Institute had only sport gyms for artistic and rhythmic gymnastics, some track and field sports and basketball; and had to lease facilities for the academic cross country skiing, football and swimming sports. The situation was really tense as noted by the Department Head about the swimming group: “We use water illegally”, and “the group is trained in an irregular manner” [7, pp.18, 23]. The skiing sport group faced about the same situation. According to the archive documents, by 1957 the MINE situation with this sport had not changed to the better since the Institute still had neither own ski base nor a track and field hall, and this was the reason for these group practices being suspended at that time [9, p. 262].

However, the documents soon reported a notable progress in the sport equipment procurements. In 1952/53 the Physical Education and Sports Department could not afford skies and ski boots for the students, and as soon as 1956/57 it could already afford even filming equipment and well-equipped filming laboratory [9, p. 270] that were used for the athletic training purposes.

However, the athletes’ training and qualification activity fell short of the plans in 1953/54. Instead of training 8, 50 and 280 Class I, II and III athletes, respectively, the Department actually trained only 1, 8 and 66 of them [6, p. 151]. The situation had drastically changed to the better after the Ministry of Higher Education Directive #135 of 19.12.1955 was issued on the sport specialisations in the academic education system. The Directive required that one or another sport speciality should be introduced only when the relevant sport base and sport equipment are available. The step yielded benefits very soon. In 1956/57 237% more class athletes were trained at MINE than was planned [7, p. 269] albeit no progress was still observed with the GTO Complex tests as in 1957/58 the Department still failed to fulfil the training plan for the GTO Badge holders.

However, the MINE Physical Education and Sports Department progress in the competitive domain was proved by the academic athletes’ accomplishments in different competitions. In 1953/54 the Institute organised 7 mass sport events for 800 competitors; however, in the inter-university competitions the university teams were successful only in the basketball and volleyball events [6, p. 152]. In 1956/57, the MINE athletes competed in 58 mass sport events and were fairly successful in artistic gymnastics, swimming, volleyball, handball, weightlifting, classical wrestling, triathlon and chess competitions [9, pp. 266-267].

At the same time, the Department management had taken efforts to solve a variety of methodological problems [5, p. 84], and in 1953 event made a decision to establish special methodological commissions for gymnastics, track and field sports, skiing sport and body conditioning sports. But in the meantime the academic trainers selected the training methods and models on their own discretion and freely experimented to attain the desired objectives [7, p. 7]. In 1952, for example, consistent physical fitness test standards were still lacking [7, p. 12] and the Department applied its own 100m, 400m and 800m running, high jump, freestyle gymnastics and rings test standards that were still gender-unspecific in fact [7, p. 3].

The Department made a sort of breakthrough in this field when the “Running Training” practical manual was developed in 1955 [8, p. 51] and formally recommended for application by the Physical Education Department. In 1956 the Department printed a “Manual for Social and Physical Education Academic Activists” [9, p. 265] and a booklet called “What Social and Physical Education Academic Activist Must Know” [10, p. 232]. In parallel with the publishing activity, the Department persistently fulfilled the goals set in early 1950ies by providing advanced training to the Department trainers, and 4 of them even qualified for the post-graduate studies in 1956/57.

Conclusion. In the period of 1952-1957, the Plekhanov MINE Physical Education and Sports Department went through a critical period in its development process that laid a foundation for a breakthrough in the academic athletic training process later on. It was due to the prudent governmental policies, own ambitions of the Institute management and determined efforts of the faculty that the athletic training system of MINE was ranked among the best among the non-sport and non-medical universities of the USSR. The academic training process was facilitated by the special gender-, health-, physical-fitness- and technical-skills-specific divisions and groups established for the process customisation. The academic training conditions were significantly improved due to the persistent efforts of the MINE PESD management: for example, the summer rest camp of the Institute was applied for the field training sessions. Important steps were made at the same time to lay a uniform basis for advancement of the sport theory and practices in different sport disciplines. However, the goals set for the Institute’s sport community were so challenging at that time that the progress was uneven in fact and resulted in a developmental gap between the academic body conditioning practices and the sport excellence training systems – that was bridged a few years later.


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The study gives an overview of the key historical period in the national physical education and sports sector progress (with Moscow Institute of National Economy [MINE] taken for the case study) with an emphasis on the process missions. Operations of the MINE Physical Education and Sports Department (PESD) and its contribution to the national mass sports and GTO Complex implementation were analysed on the typical examples.

The practical experience accumulated by the MINE PESD in 1952-1957 made it possible to bring new quality to the academic sport process. The MINE PESD athletic training system was ranked among the best among the non-sport and non-medical universities of the USSR at that time. The academic training conditions were significantly improved due to the persistent efforts of the MINE PESD management. Important steps were made at the same time to lay a uniform basis for advancement of the sport theory and practice in different sport disciplines. The article gives an analysis of a comprehensive stock of archive materials. The study data and analyses may be of high interest and practical importance for the sport historians, sport progress analysts, and for developers of new physical education models and methods.