Vom proletarischen Tourismus zum stalinistischen Gipfelsturm : Bergsteigen in der frühen Sowjetunion

Maurer, Eva (24 September 2016). Vom proletarischen Tourismus zum stalinistischen Gipfelsturm : Bergsteigen in der frühen Sowjetunion (Unpublished). In: Gravir les Alpes du XIXe siècle à nos jours: Pratiques, émotions, imaginaires. Salvan-les-Marécottes. 22.-24.9.2016.

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The Russian word for mountaineering is „al’pinizm“ – and it was in the Alps where Russians first became acquainted with mountain sports at the turn of the 20th century. From there, they brought both theoretical and practical knowledge of modern mountaineering back to the Russian empire, where at the end of the 19th century the first local “mountain clubs” were established in the Caucasus and on the Crimea, modelled on western mountaineering associations. But mountaineering remained a sport of a few hundred mostly middle- and upper-class practitioners. It was only after the Russian Revolution 1917 that mountaineering in the newly formed Soviet Union came to popularity and rose to encompass a whole ‘army of mountaineers’ from the 1930s on.
How can we explain that a pastime such as mountaineering, often termed ‘elite’ or (even worse, in Soviet thought) ‘bourgeois’, rose to an established and obviously attractive sport in a state which aspired to represent workers and peasants, espoused ‘proletarianism’ and aimed at transforming all ‘bourgeois’ remnants of its past? How did Soviet mountaineering evolve and develop, and what exactly was specifically ‘Soviet’ about it?
Geographically, the Russian Empire and later the Soviet Union offered to mountaineers spectacular mountain landscapes in the Caucasus, the Pamir and the Tien-Shan – mountain ranges which were, however, difficult to access and still, especially in Central Asia, largely unexplored at the begin of the 20th century. Thus, scientific exploration was an important context and legitimizing framework during the first years of Soviet mountaineering – next to the propagation of ‘getting to know your own country’, a focus on physical fitness of the population, but also their military preparedness for the seemingly inevitable confrontation with the capitalist world. The fact that long stretches of the Soviet Union’s borders ran through mountainous territory only enhanced the latter aspect. Only slowly did a different understanding of mountaineering as a (Soviet) sport become the most important reference point for Soviet climbing.
My talk will trace the developments of practices, infrastructures and worldviews of Soviet mountaineers in the Stalin era, from their first organized forms within the ‘proletarian tourism’ of the 1920s, through the era of ‘mass alpinism’ in the 1930s to the professionalized and sport-oriented top climbing teams of the post-war era. Three key areas shall be especially focused on: access to mountaineering for Soviet citizens, their self-organization within the more and more state-controlled sports system and the practices and discourses mountaineers develop to inscribe themselves into the imaginary world and mental map of Stalinism.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


13 Central Units > Administrative Director's Office > University Library of Bern

UniBE Contributor:

Maurer, Eva


700 Arts > 790 Sports, games & entertainment
900 History > 910 Geography & travel
900 History > 940 History of Europe




Eva Maurer

Date Deposited:

12 Jun 2018 14:49

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:13

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Uncontrolled Keywords:

Alpinismus Geschichte



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