Agent 008+ with his chopper.

23 May 2017

Grigori Denikin, of the Soviet Ministry of Blogging website ‘Hear The Boat Sink’ (HTBSk), writes:

Your comrades, @HTBSk.su, have noticed your passion for western rowing history, particularly when it comes to rowing movies. You delight in promoting movies from Australia (Paris or the Bush); Canada (The Boy in Blue); Amerika (The Boys of ’36) and Great Britain (Bert and Dickie). What about our great country? Why have you ignored us? The U.Ƨ.Ƨ.Я. has a proud rowing history and our rowing movies are, how you say, “Gor blimey”, just like the great British Carry On franchise. Our masterpiece is Королевская регата (1966). We even called it ‘Royal Regatta’ and still you ignored it, but now, thanks to agent 008+, we have found your weakness – posters! Perhaps now you will want to watch our movies, and buy our posters which are definitely ‘Krucial Kelectables’.

Classic film poster in blue and yellow: Королевская регата (Korolevskaya Regata) – Royal Regatta (1966) – A great image featuring Alena, a stewardess played by Natalia Kustinskaya, in the foreground with three rowing eights racing in the background.

When the student crew of the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAИ/MAI) is beaten – watch out for an ejector crab and flipped eight – their coach leaves and takes the best rowers with him. The remaining athletes decide to put a new crew together and the MAI assign them a new coach – a teacher of hydrodynamics. Persistence pays off and they realise their new coach’s dream, to take part in the Royal Regatta, set and filmed in Duisburg, Germany, perhaps during the 1965 European Rowing Championships which were held there.

Will they emerge victorious or will their hosts come out on top? Admire the MAI crests on the rowers’ kit and make sure you are paying attention at the 59 minute point when The Beatles kick in with their 1963 release, I Saw Her Standing There. Five years later, The Beatles were Back in the U.S.S.R.

The full movie is free to view on YouTube. Pasha, one of the main characters, is played by Aleksandr Martyshkin who later represented the Soviet Union in rowing at the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games in the eights, winning a bronze medal in Mexico and finishing fourth in Munich. He also won two silver medals at the World Rowing Championships in 1966 and 1970.

Королевская регата (1966)

Another cracking poster for ‘Royal Regatta’, Alena’s scarf doubles as the race course.

HTBS’s Greg Denieffe replies: Thank you, Grigori. HTBS is happy to promote rowing movies from all corners of the globe. Perhaps you in turn, can add the following response to your own website.

A more recent Russian film is the 2013 release Sprint to the Past (subtitled in English), which, at 16 minutes long, has an advantage over the 85-minute long Moscow farce. Set in Leningrad, it tells the story of some rival rowers from the early 1980s and a fortuitous reunion many years later. Interestingly for me, at 5.50 in to the film, a small piece of Irish rowing history creeps on to the right side of the screen (yes, I know I should get out more!). At the end of the short film, the viewer is presented with some facts on the decline of rowing in Leningrad between the end of the U.S.S.R. period and 2013 when the city was once again called Saint Petersburg.

George Prosalovsky, as Oleg Ivanov (in later life), stares into the river where he spent his youth. Something we’ve all done.

Sprint to the Past is a story about sport, fate and memories. Unfortunately, the full video is no longer available on YouTube (copyright infringement) but there is a seven-minute trailer available on Vimeo. From this trailer, you get a nice feel for the film but there is a cut at 2.41, just as the Paddy Dooley article moves from right to left across the screen. Fedor Selkin, who wrote the script, directed the film, and plays Oleg as a young man, chose the following rowing club in Saint Petersburg to shoot the closing scenes. What a hub of rowing that must have been before the decline set in.

The Tipperary Star article that appears briefly in Sprint to the Past.

Here are a few more Soviet era posters that caught my eye:

Thumbs up for this Russian poster promoting the sport of Rowing in 1956.
Promotional poster for the Third International Friendly Youth Games held in Moscow 1957. Cross-eyed? Don’t look at the angles of the bowside/starboard oars. It may be technically impossible to row like this but it is a lovely poster.

Another collectable rowing poster from the U.S.S.R. is the following one from the 1980 Olympic Games. If you’re a Muscovite, you might say it is a design classic but on the other hand if you are a Peterburgtsy, you would say it isn’t even finished, unless it’s for a kids colouring competition. Do you know how many countries boycotted the Moscow games over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? Don’t worry, I couldn’t work it out either. Now, it is practically compulsory to have done the same thing to be allowed to compete. Aren’t westerners psikh?

Colour by numbers poster from the 1980 Olympic Games – ‘boycotted’ by numbers. You can buy a copy on eBay for about £30/$40.
This capitalist styled poster by Aeroflot for the 1980 Olympic Games doesn’t include the word Москва or Moscow but does feature a coxless four. Aren’t easterners противоречивый?

One Soviet era ‘rower’ has featured on HTBS in the past. In September 2011, our leader, KGB (König Göran Buckhorn), told the tale of the Girl With Oar Too Sexy For Stalin…. There are dozens of the copies of this statue throughout the former Soviet Union and some nice photographs can be found in any internet search. I particularly like the composition of this one taken in Gorky Park before Nazi bombing destroyed it in 1941. The story of the statue is interesting but pales into insignificance when compared with the true story of the girl who sat for sculptor Ivan Shadr in 1935. She was Vera Voloshina (1919-41) and she later became a Soviet intelligence officer and was tortured and executed by the Nazis during the Second World War. What The Girl with an Oar reveals tells her tragic story and gives a whole new meaning to the statue.

‘Girl with an Oar’ portrays beauty, femininity and health. Photo: artinrussia.org

HTBS’s reply to Grigori is not the result of any secret meetings between HTBS staff and the Russian Ambassadors to Sweden, Ireland, or the USA. It was planned and written without the use of performance enhancing drugs (clearly) although a small quantity of wine of the red variety (obviously) was consumed. In writing the reply, the overriding principle was to adhere to the Russian proverb, ‘Better to be slapped with the truth than kissed with a lie’.

*‘Going to the pictures’ is an old-fashioned expression comparable to ‘going to the cinema’ or ‘going to the movies’.


  1. Thank you, Goran, for an amazing piece. I will carry it with me all day…..:-):-)


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