Maps, skis, two paddles: how tourism in the USSR became a sport

January 6

Camping trips were very popular in the USSR. Travelers conquered the taiga, rafted along the rivers of Karelia and Siberia, climbed the top of mountains. Moscow Glavarchiv has a lot of materials about this type of leisure.

The Society of Proletarian Tourism and Excursions was established in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. It gave start to the camping trips movement, which by the early 1930s united over 90 camp sites and nearly a million regular participants.

After the Great Patriotic War, this type of recreation became a mass phenomenon. Tourist clubs worked in regional centres, and tour bureaus were opened in large cities. In addition, there were tourist sections at every enterprise and in every educational institution. They offered local routes and organized trips to remote areas of the country.

The tourist movement maintained certain standards and rules: the routes had to comply with specified norms, and team work was encouraged. In fact, tourism began to be considered a sport, and travelers could get a sports category for their achievements and take part in various tourism competitions.

Enthusiasts of water touring had to be able to swim, understand design and types of vessels, and provide first aid on water. Those who preferred hiking had to know how to spend energy rationally and handle different types of equipment. Ski tourism was considered to be a most extreme sports: everyone had to know how to put up a tent, make a hut, provide first aid and navigate the terrain.

The Glavarchiv contains a collection of photographic documents related to tourism in the USSR. For example, the personal fund of architect Georgy Gradov has pictures of mountain landscapes taken during his travels in the Pamirs, Tien Shan and the Caucasus.

Student hikes are shown in photographs from the funds of hydrogeologist Nina Velmina (Crimea and Altai), historian Yaroslav Shchapov (Russian North), historian Dora Epstein, biochemist Roman Hesin-Lurie, singer Irina Kashirina. And thanks to the foundation of the Karl Liebknecht Moscow German School, one can get acquainted with photo reports about school trips in the Crimea and the Caucasus.

Documents concerning the history of the Moscow Electric Lamp Factory contain an album of the factory section of tourism and mountaineering. The collection includes photographs taken during hiking in the Caucasus mountains and the Eastern Sayan mountains in the 1960s - 1980s.

Another set of documents provided in the fund of the tourist activities organizer Maria Palladieva depicts how the route along the Sukhumi Military Road was organized in the early years of the Soviet power.

One can find thematic manuals among the Glavarchiv documents : for example, a guide to making homemade tourist equipment and practical training on organizing ski trips.


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