From Offense to Defense : The Political Discourse and Use of Sports in Putin’s Russia from a Historical Perspective

University essay from Lunds universitet/Europastudier

Abstract: This thesis looks into the political discourse surrounding the doping scandal that has developed in Russian sport over the last two years. The paper hypothesizes that because of the importance of nationalism and Russia’s great power status, the Putin regime has, despite publicly stating the opposite, actively contributed to the further politicization of sport by returning to a sport discourse closely resembling that of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. By taking a historical perspective, comparing the narrative of the Soviet Union surrounding sports during the Cold War and that of the Putin administration in the aftermath of the Mclaren reports, the paper will try to establish the similarities and differences to be found in the two narratives. It will do so by using the existing academic knowledge regarding propaganda and discourse of the Soviet period regarding sport, and publications, interviews and news articles by the Russian government in the last few years. These sources will be examined through political discourse analysis, a methodology from the social sciences. It is very compatible with the historical perspective this paper uses to contextualize the current climate of sports discourse in the field of politics. This paper will highlight the importance of sport for the legitimacy of the Putin administration, linking nationalism, national pride and the “Russia as a great power” narrative as conceptualized by Bo Petersson, to show that the Putin regime has backed itself into a corner, where reinforcing its Soviet-inspired discourse on sport has become important in order to retain its legitimacy.

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