USSR – a country of cowardice? Afterword to the film “World Champion”

Plot World History with Andrey Sidorchik

According to modern Russian cinema, we won the war in spite of the cowardly and weak-willed leadership, thanks to penal battalions, shovels and Soviet people's keen craving for “rye bun”.

Surrender without a fight: the cunning plan of a sports functionary

Now it turns out that in sports in the Soviet years we also won in spite of the functionaries, who were so afraid of strong opponents that they tried to desert every time.

The film “World Champion”, telling about the opposition of Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi in the fight for the world chess crown, in general, not bad. Chess is really shown in style there, and the acting ensemble did not let us down. And everything would be fine if it were not about a real event and real people.

As you know, Karpov first became the world champion in 1975, due to the refusal to fight on the part of the American Bobby Fischer. Three years later, Karpov had to defend the title in a match with Korchnoi, who by that time had fled to the West. This gave the chess confrontation a bright political color.

According to the plot of the film, the head of the Soviet sports, played by Vladimir Vdovichenkov, decides that Karpov will not cope with Korchnoi. And that's why Anatoly Evgenievich … it's better to refuse the match altogether. When the dumbfounded Karpov explains that in this case the crown will simply go to Korchnoi, the hero of Vdovichenkov expresses the idea — it is better to give the title, but not to lose to the anti-Soviet. When the stubborn Karpov insists on his intention to play, the functionary gives the order to collect dirt in order to mix the chess player with dirt after his defeat.

What really happened

All of the above is like hallucinations. There was nothing like this in reality, and it could not be.

For the USSR, the loss of a chess title, when in 1972 Boris Spasskylost to Fischer was a blow. That's just the loser Spassky no one began to destroy — he continued to be active in both national and international competitions. Moreover, the ex-world champion married the granddaughter of a white general living in France, settled in this country, which did not prevent him from performing under the flag of the Soviet Union for another nine years!

But let's get back to Karpov. Why on earth should functionaries be afraid of his defeat by Korchnoi, if he had already defeated Viktor Lvovich in the final match of candidates in 1974? And Karpov's dominance between 1975 and 1978 in major tournaments left no doubt that he — the strongest chess player on the planet.

But the idea to give Korchnoi the title without playing — yes, just for the thought of such a thing, any Soviet functionary would fly out of his chair and subsequently work somewhere as a sewer.

It can be said that the scriptwriters went to such a trick to turn not Korchnoi into the main antagonist, but the soulless representative of the sinister Soviet system. But, firstly, as it has already been said, this is a fiction, and secondly, it is not the first time in a movie about sports.

The unbelievable “Upward Movement”: how we “refused” the match with the USA

In the blockbuster “Upward Movement”, dedicated to the USSR basketball team that won the Munich Olympics, a sports functionary performed by Marata Basharovawants to withdraw from the final with the US team, as he is afraid of losing. Moreover, in justification of the refusal, the hero of Basharov wants to put the capture by terrorists of members of the Israeli team, interpreting this as … a provocation against the USSR. And only at the last moment this shameful statement is interrupted.

In reality, there was nothing like this — no one thought of avoiding the final against the Americans under any pretext.

Two different films about real sporting events, and in both the functionaries, out of fear of failure, try to abandon the fight altogether.

The scriptwriters, obviously, are in captivity of their own illusions about Soviet realities. Great importance was attached to victories in sports in the Land of the Soviets, and failures were sometimes punished harshly — suffice it to recall how the CDSA football team was dispersed after the failure of the USSR national team at the 1952 Olympics. But no one ever left the fight for fear of defeat.

Without fear, but with politics: how it really happened

In 1959, the USSR national team refused to play with the Taiwanese team at the World Basketball Championship. There was no fear of defeat there — Ours were absolute favourites. But the USSR did not recognize Taiwan, but recognized communist China. Therefore, it was decided to abandon the match. The defeat was credited to Soviet basketball players, but even that would not prevent them from becoming world champions. However, the international federation decided to disqualify the USSR. The story is controversial, but there is no question of fear of defeat.

In 1973, the USSR football team refused to go to Chile for a qualifying match for the World Cup. Shortly before this, a military putsch had taken place in Chile, and the junta of Augusto Pinochetused the stadium as a concentration camp for political opponents. The arena was put in order for the game, but it would really be extremely strange to play there from all points of view. Soviet football players were disqualified, but, again, it’s hard to talk about some kind of cowardice here.

But in 1964, the USSR national team played the final of the European Football Championship in Spain, in front of the former Nazi satellite Franco, thanks to the Western powers retained power after the Second World War. The Soviet functionaries were not afraid to play in the enemy's lair, and after the defeat, of course, dissatisfaction was expressed, but no one was sent to the camps. And even the head coach Konstantin Beskov, even though he was fired from his post, continued a successful career.

For kefir with a cap?

Soon, apparently, filmmakers will get to the three-time Olympic champion in figure skating Irina Rodnina and they will tell that, together with Alexander Zaitsev, Soviet functionaries were not allowed to the Olympics in the American Lake Placid, fearing her defeat. In reality, just the leading pair of the United States morally broke down and could not go on the ice. The opponents were simply crushed by the iron confidence of Rodnina and Zaitsev.

But who cares about the truth? It is better to drive into the heads of contemporaries the idea that in sports all victories were achieved in spite of a cruel and cowardly system. And of course, not for the Motherland, Soviet athletes fought in the arenas, but, say, for a carpet on the wall, wristwatches and yogurt with a green cap.


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