Vsevolod Mikhailovich Bobrov was born in 1922, just as the Soviet Union was being formed after the Russian Revolution. He served in the Red Army during the Second World War and started playing for the Army football team, CSKA Moscow. After the war, Bobrov was “loaned” to Moscow Dynamo for their prestige tour of Britain in 1945. Strong and athletic, Bobrov was a great goalscorer and won the Soviet league championship three times.
Losing to Yugoslavia
In 1952, Vsevolod Bobrov played for the USSR at the Olympic Games in Helsinki. His team was expected to win gold, and the players came under heavy propaganda pressure from Stalin. In an epic semi-final against Yugoslavia, Bobrov scored three goals. The game ended 5-5, but the USSR lost the replay. Stalin was furious about losing to the team of his bitter rival, Tito. As punishment for “failure”, Stalin ordered the CSKA team to be disbanded.
Bobrov was an exceptional athlete, even better at ice hockey than football. He coached the national teams in both sports after he stopped playing. From 1947, Bobrov was a star for the CSKA hockey team that won the national title seven times. He was in the Soviet team that won the World Championships in 1954 and 1956. Vsevolod Bobrov died in Moscow in 1979.
Vsevolod Bobrov was a double hero, winning glory in both football, and in ice hockey, yet he was part of a team disbanded in disgrace by Josef Stalin after failing to win the gold medal at the 1952 Olympics.
Educators could look at the life story of Vsevolod Bobrov and work with young people to consider these questions:
- What does this tell us about the propaganda pressures placed on sportsmen in a dictatorship?
- Bobrov lived his whole life in the Soviet Union. When Russia recently hosted the Winter Olympics and the World Cup, he was praised as a Russian sporting hero. What are the reasons for countries to celebrate athletes after their deaths?
Vsevolod Bobrov of the USSR at the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina-d’Ampezzo, Italy.
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