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In the 37 years of the Soviet Union's existence an unprecedented flood of more than 1,500 different postage stamps has poured from Russia's presses. Each stamp carries its own propaganda message to the masses and/or the outside world. A number of these stamps have sports motifs and are aimed at Ivan and Anna to hammer home the cynical and calculated sop of athletics and mass calisthenics as a suitable substitute for better living conditions, more food and warmer clothes. Other sports stamps inform the world that the Soviet man and woman are able to outstrip their bourgeois counterparts in work or at play.
Since the end of World War II a steady stream of sports stamps has come from other Communist countries: Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Democratic Germany (Russian Zone), Communist China, Tito's Yugoslavia and her Zone B in Trieste, Romania and Poland. Early issues modestly hoped to show with each new Five Year Plan and its accompanying speed-up that Russians still had time for soccer, tennis [sic!], swimming, rowing and other sports. Subsequently, the military might of the Communist world has added a bass note to the crescendo. The 1946 Balkan Games set of Albania, and Bulgaria's sports set of 1949 both showed the readiness of these countries to make the transition from war to peace or from peace to war.
Finally came the present arrogant note, the paean sung in self-praise for each new victory, each world's record, each new stadium. More backward athletically, the Chinese have, been content with 40 stamps issued in blocks of four, each stamp showing a step in an exercise to be performed to the accompaniment of a radio broadcast, � la Walter Camp's Daily Dozen of some 25 years ago.
Ironically, these many stamps are aimed directly at American pocketbooks, for stamp collecting behind the curtain is dangerously capitalistic. And dealing in stamps has become a government monopoly in all cases. In fact, to collect such stamps is the most dangerous sport of all.
All stamps form author's collection
A typical propaganda set issued late in 1938 in connection with no event whatever
One of philately's earliest attempts at stamp design in a modern art style, these oversized rotogravure-printed stamps marked the 1935 Spartacist Games held in Moscow
When this set appeared in 1949, Russia's sports prowess was still a matter of world surmise