Role of sports in national policies in opinions of Russian politicians and citizens


PhD, Associate Professor A.N. Grishanina1
Dr.Sc.Pol., Professor G.S. Melnik1
PhD, Associate Professor N.O. Sveshnikova1
Dr.Sc.Hist., Professor N.Y. Olesich1
St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg

Keywords: sports, Olympic Games, civism, mass media, national policy, Vancouver, Sochi-2014.

Background. The sports history in Russia and the national sports progress on the global sport arenas deserve special attention and analysis. Sports and sportsmanship in the Russian empire were largely associated with the defense of the Motherland, whilst the sports-based patriotism was cultivated mostly in the army [1]. The Soviet patriotism with its core ideas was shaped up by the 1930ies with the competitive accomplishments interpreted as the tool to prove the superiority of socialism and the way to demonstrate the passionate love to the Motherland [4]. With time the sport ideology had been subject to the natural evolution with new forms and models of heroism and perceptions of competitive feats coming to the agenda albeit it has always been largely driven by the ideas of loyalty to the nation, civil responsibility and pride or own country.

It was on the verge of XX century that the Russian sports had made a transition from the sporting practices for fun and hobbies of rich and noble people to the mass recognition and popularity of physical and sporting practices. The popular interest in sports had grown fast despite the dominating unsupportive attitudes of the government agencies and still influential negative psychological stereotypes. The popular sports in forms of gymnastics groups, clubs and sports journals were largely promoted and driven on the grass-root level by enthusiastic individuals, new-brand people totally devoted to their sports [5, p. 18–19]. Deserve to be mentioned among these pioneers the names of G.A. Duperron, scientist, journalist and founder (1907) of the Young People’s Physical Progress Society [5]; and V.I. Sreznevskiy, a prominent enthusiast and promoter of new sports in Russia including bandy, skiing, relay races and football [1, p. 537].

As things now stand, the national sport system has evolved into a powerful technology to promote, among other things, the national and regional culture and its values in its role of the “undisputed leader of the modern show business” [3]. The role of sport system in the modern national culture under transition has notably changed with the fast growing interest of different population groups in sport events, particularly top-ranking international ones. Sports are increasingly perceived as an integral part of the national cultural tradition that helps consolidate the nation and facilitates the individual progress [6].

Objective of the study was to obtain by a questionnaire survey and analyze opinions of ordinary residents, politicians and government officers on the role of sports in the national policies.

Methods and structure of the study. Presently the popular attitudes to physical culture, sports and competitive accomplishments are dominated by the following two trends: (1) they are viewed as an indispensable component of the public health improvement and healthy lifestyle promotion initiatives; and (2) as the tools to develop civic personality culture driven by patriotism. Individual physical culture is perceived nowadays as a key component of general culture and largely determines the individual behavioural models, world outlooks and attitudes to society, nature, nation and labour.

Of special importance for this study were a few study reports by the national researchers of sports in the context of the modern Russian culture including S.Y. Glezerov, R.M. Zagainov, Y.P. Zinchenko (2009-2010); O.A. Kaptsevich (2010-2014); A.S. Leonov (2010-2015); and N.Y. Olesich (2010).

Subject to the questionnaire survey designed based on the N.O. Sveshnikova’s survey method were 20-40 year-old middle-class non-sporting residents of Saint Petersburg (n=60). The sample was offered 40 statements to find their attitudes to sports, with the categorized statements generated by a content analysis of the speeches and messages of the leading government officers with concern to the Vancouver Olympic Games as quoted by the national mass media (including A.M. Babkova, S.N. Gurov, V.V. Zhirinovskiy, O.V. Zholobov, D.A. Medvedev, V.L. Mutko, V.N. Mysev, V.A. Tretyak, L.V. Tyagachov, A.T. Sikharulidze). The survey was designed to apply the following attitude markers: (1) Sports associated with health and healthy lifestyle; (2) Sports associated with an age-specific activity; (3) Sports considered as a source of emotions; (4) Sports viewed as a high culture trait; (5) Sports associated with the state power; and (6) Sports viewed as a business field. The respondents were also offered to fill-in the Schwartz test forms to test their values and priorities in the sports domain. The survey data were subject to a correlation analysis to find correlations of the key variables, with the Spearman’s rank correlation ratio applied to find and rate the categorized correlations; plus the SPSS system was used for the statistical data processing.

Study results and discussion. On the whole, 248 messages of the leading politicians on the sport-related issues were applied in the survey, with 1.21% of them ranked with the sport as a healthy lifestyle component category (1); 1.81% with the sport as a source of emotions category (2); 1.1% with the sports as an age-specific activity category (3); 5.65% with the sports as a high culture trait category (4); 3.23% with the sport as a part of the state power category (5); and 2.82% with the sport as a business field category (6). It should be noted that sports are highly valued as a sign and part of the individual culture in the analyzed content that may be indicative of the politicians appreciating the contribution of sports to the national culture and national self-identification. The politicians also tend to rank high the contribution of the governmental policies to the national sports progress and underestimate the contribution of sports to the popular healthy lifestyles.

The respondents ranked 212 messages in the survey, with the responses ranked as follows: 1) 0.9%; 2) 1.12%; 3) 1.12%; 4) 1.89%; 5) 3.30%; and 6) 1.41%. The data may be interpreted as indicative of the Russian population giving a high priority to the governmental policies as progress drivers for the national sports; and considering sports largely as an entertainment.

The individual values test using the Schwartz test showed the prevalence of the motivational values (12.5%), with the values viewed as derivatives from the natural mental demand for versatile and strong emotions as drivers of physical activity. Furthermore, the respondents ranked high the universalism- and power-related values (11.5% and 11.3%, respectively). In the motivational domain, universalism may be perceived as understanding, tolerance, and protection of social and natural wellbeing – the qualities that are particularly important in contacts with people beyond the habitual environment or when the primary group is expanded.

The study data show the values of power and sport being in good correlation. Values of this type are geared to attain the desired social position and recognition, domination and control with the relevant aspects (authority, wealth, power, public image and recognition). The values of power and achievement are focused on the social success and respect, with the achievement values (e.g. ambitions, successes) underlining the individual competency and role in direct contacts with other people, whilst the values of authority (wealth, power) emphasize the dominant position achieved and retained within the social system.

Most important in terms of individual priorities were the values of tradition (12.2%) and power (11.8%). The motivational value of tradition includes respect, appreciation of the customs and cultural ideas (respect to the traditions, humbleness, acceptance of own faith, modesty), with all the other values ranked at moderate levels in the survey.

The survey data related to the sport role ranking method show that many respondents tend to perceive sports as an indispensable component of a healthy lifestyle (5.00); as an activity for young people (5.36); and a business field (5.35). Furthermore, sports are accepted by many respondents as a part of the national culture (4.67); plus a significant aspect of the state power (3.56).

The correlation analysis under the study showed a fair correlation of the kindness value and sports as a source of emotions in the range of individual priorities. This finding may be indicative of the fact that the people who rank kindness high as the key value – tend to underrate sports as entertainment. The people who appreciate friendly and healthy relationship with close people with such aspects as integrity, loyalty and helpfulness, tend to undervalue the entertaining aspects of sports and give preference to participation in competitions, with high support and understanding of the competitors.

We applied the Fisher’s angular distribution to rate significance of the data generated by the content analysis of the politicians’ messages and respondents’ opinions, and found insignificant differences in both data arrays. It may be concluded, therefore, that both of the groups appreciate the role and adequacy of the governmental policies designed to prioritize and promote the national sports.

Table 1. Group-specific sports aspects ranking data

Ranking criteria/ aspects








Emotions, fun




Age-specific needs




Culture trait




Sign of state power




Business field




The survey data show that the respondents tend to perceive sports as a part of the governmental policies albeit in a negative aspect, with the content analysis showing insignificant differences in the politicians’ messages and respondents’ opinions. The test data generated by the Schwartz test show most of the respondents recognizing the values of power i.e. prepared to accept the sport-specific differentiation of statuses as required by the functions of social institutions. Values of power and achievement are found to be focused on the social respect.

The correlation analysis under the study shows that the higher is the appreciation of the friendly and healthy relationship with close people (with such aspects as integrity, loyalty and helpfulness), the less important are the entertaining aspects and scopes of the sport events. Most of the respondents tend to believe that the governmental efforts have been not determined and efficient enough for success of the Russian national team at the Vancouver Olympics. It should be noted that many respondents confess being non-engaged or even non-interested in sports albeit recognize them as an indication of the national health and culture.

Conclusion. The National Sports Development Strategy for the Period up to 2020 effectuated prior to the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi has effectively bridged the gaps in the Olympic movement promotion projects in Russia and thereby contributed to the success of the Russian national team in the event giving a boost to the global popularity of the national sports. The mass media promotion campaigns will be designed to promote the sport achievements of the leading athletes at home and worldwide, lure investments to the sector, promote tourism by mass media coverage of different-level sport events; and make a due emphasis on elite national sports, leaders’ ratings and successes of the coaching teams. Analyses of the media promotion campaigns effects on the popularity of the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia and worldwide show that the Olympic ideas and triumphal content are highly beneficial for the political agenda since they “help mobilize a great resource for success due to the past accomplishments inspiring the people for future triumphs and promote national sports as one of the power aspects of the nation raising pride in the country and compatriots”.


  1. Glezerov S.E. Modnye uvlecheniya blistatelnogo Peterburga. Kumiry. Rekordy. Kurezy [Fashion Hobbies of brilliant St. Petersburg. Idols. Records. Curiosities]. Moscow: Tsentroligraf publ., 2009, pp. 537-581.
  2. Kaptsevich O.A. Istoriko-psikhologicheskie aspekty patriotizma kak fenomena obschestvennogo soznaniya [Historical and psychological aspects of patriotism as phenomenon of public consciousness]. St. Petersburg, KLIO, 2014, no. 2, pp.97-101.
  3. Lubysheva L.I., Mochenov V.P. Novy kontseptualny podkhod k sovremennomu ponimaniyu sotsialnoy prirody sporta [New conceptual approach to modern understanding of social nature of sport ]. Teoriya i praktika fiz. kultury, 2015, no. 4, pp. 94–101.
  4. Samuylova I.A. Razvitie fizicheskoy kultury i sporta v SSSR kak voploschenie idei o novom cheloveke [Development of physical culture and sports in the USSR as embodiment of the idea of new man]. Olympic University. St. Petersburg: Znamenitye universanty publ., 2013, P. 82.
  5. Olesich N.Y. Universitet Olimpiyskiy [Olympic University]. St. Petersburg: Znamenitye universanty publ., 2013, pp. 18–19.
  6. Gurieva S.D., Kostromina S. N., Tcvetkova L.A., Konfisakhor A.G., Samuylova I.A., Anisimova T.V. Migration as an indicator of people’s social and psychological stability (as exemplified in the Pskov Region). Psychology in Russia: State of the Art, 2015. vol. 8, no. 1. P. 61-70.

Corresponding author:


The study analyzes results of the questionnaire survey of the Russian population to poll the public attitudes to the Olympics in Vancouver where the Russian team ended up unusually low on the scoreboard. The questionnaire survey was designed to obtain opinions of ordinary residents, politicians and government officers on the role of sports in the national policies. The study data and analysis confirmed the hypothesis of a certain correlation between the sport conceptions formed by the government offices and public attitudes to sports. The study applied the Schwartz test to find the respondents’ values and priorities in the sports domain. The government officers’ opinions were rated by the content analysis of their speeches on sport matters. Correlation analysis of the survey data showed that the respondents tend to accept sports as a genuine component of healthy lifestyle, good business for young people, professional field, and a critical part of the national culture. It is important that the respondents generally accept modern sports as a part of governmental policies albeit their attitudes to the latter are expressly negative on the whole.