W.D. Frank will be speaking and signing copies of his
new book, "Everyone to Skis! Skiing in Russia and the Rise of the Soviet Biathlon" at the Yakima Valley Museum on November 6th at 6pm.
“You will never think about, watch, (perhaps even participate in)
biathlon in the same way after reading Frank's interesting, well-written
and organized, detailed and thoroughly researched book.” —E. John B.
Allen, author of The Culture and Sport of Skiing: From Antiquity to World War II
Nowhere in the world was the sport of
biathlon, a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle marksmanship,
taken more seriously than in the Soviet Union, and no other nation
garnered greater success at international venues. From the introduction
of modern biathlon in 1958 to the USSR's demise in 1991, athletes
representing the Soviet Union won almost half of all possible medals
awarded in world championship and Olympic competition. Biathletes of the
USSR were so dominant that at major events their victory was often a
Yet more than sheer technical skill created Soviet superiority in
biathlon. The inherent characteristics of biathlon, which required
stamina and precision in a quasi-military setting, dovetailed with
important concepts promoted by the Soviet government. The sport also
supplied an opportune platform for promoting the State's socialist
viewpoint and military might. Biathlon, in other words, was about more
than simply winning Olympic medals.
Currently the most popular winter spectator sport in Europe, biathlon
looms large in the history of global athletics, and in the event's
early narrative the Soviet Union was its most important player. William
D. Frank, a former nationally-ranked competitor and a scholar of Russian
history, is in a unique position to tell this story. His highly
readable book is the first in-depth look at how the Soviet government
interpreted the sport of skiing as a cultural, ideological, and
political tool throughout the course of seven decades.
For scholars and general readers alike, Everyone To Skis!
represents a fascinating perspective on the Soviet Union through the
history of a sport closely tied to the homeland. In the words of Lenin:
“Do you ski? Do it without fail! Learn how and set off for the mountains
- you must. In the mountains winter is wonderful! It's sheer delight,
and it smells like Russia.”
William D. Frank earned his PhD in History at the
University of Washington. He competed in the United States Biathlon Team
Selection Trials for the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New
York and the 1981 Biathlon World Championships in Lahti, Finland, the
United States Biathlon Qualification Race Series for the 1984 Winter
Olympic Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, the United States Biathlon
National Championships of 1979 and 1981, and the United States National
Cross-Country Championships of 1985. He is an occasional lecturer in
History and Humanities at Central Washington University.