Soviet athletes in the West: flight for well-being.
On March 29, 1989, Soviet hockey players were allowed to play for NHL clubs. On the anniversary of the event, remember the athletes who fled to the West before the fall of the Iron Curtain.
To leave the Soviet Union at any cost to try their skills and creative abilities in the West, many artists, science, and culture sought. Athletes have performed abroad especially often: the Olympic Games, World and European championships in which they regularly participated, passed around the world, allowed them to see the Western world and compare it to Soviet realities.
Sports halls and stadiums, as well as the conditions for training and living in the Union for the worse, differed from what they saw outside the country. The material well-being of our Western colleagues amazed our athletes.
Despite all the advantages of Western life, the number of athletes who left the country can be counted on the fingers. The Soviet system created such conditions under which escape was practically impossible. The defectors were automatically recorded almost as enemies of the people, and their families, left in their homeland, were often deprived of their privileges and subjected to the strongest psychological pressure.
KGB agents were assigned to well-known sportsmen abroad, who did not allow athletes to make a step from the hotel room or training base. In each team there were informers who informed the “center” of all manifestations of dissent and pro-Western attitudes among athletes. Escaping abroad to an ideological enemy was considered a betrayal, this thought was instilled before every overseas trip. But not all – successfully.
Alexander Mogilny, a hockey player, fled in 1989.
A native of Khabarovsk, Aleksandr Mogilny spent the main career in the USSR in CSKA, from where he got to the national team. In February 1988, Alexander Mogilny became the youngest Soviet hockey player, who became the Olympic champion. Even then, the player from the USSR team was watched by clubs from the NHL. “Buffalo Sabers” chose the player in the fifth round draft. After a successful performance at the World Championships in Stockholm, the young player fled the hotel, while the team was going to the airport for departure to the homeland. Grave asked for political asylum in the United States. Note that the athlete was listed among the armed forces of the USSR and had the rank of junior lieutenant and after his escape, in fact, became a deserter.
In the career of the athlete there were four more NHL clubs, for which he managed to play. In total, he spent 990 matches, having scored 473 goals and making 559 assists.
Only in 1994 Mogilnoy was allowed to visit his homeland. At the moment he is the curator of the Night Hockey League.
Sergei Fedorov, a hockey player, fled in 1990.
He was born in 1969 in the city of Pskov. He started his career in 1985 in Minsk “Dynamo”, after which he got to CSKA, where he spent the Soviet part of his career.
He fled in 1990, when nothing remained until the fall of the “iron curtain” in the USSR. In the American Seattle at that time there were Goodwill Games. A club from the NHL “Detroit Red Wings” picked a player in the draft, and to pick it up for him to Seattle, the owner of the club, businessman and owner of “Pizza-Hat” Mike Ilic sent a private plane.
However, Fedorov never said that he refused to play for the national team and was always ready to speak for the country and beyond. A year later the hockey player performed at the World Cup for the USSR national team. And in the nineties he became the leader of the Russian national team.
As part of the club from Detroit, Fedorov became a three-time winner of the Stanley Cup, and also became the first European player to receive the “Hart Trophy” – the prize to the best regular NHL player. Among the other NHL clubs in which the hockey player spent most of his career – Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals.
Currently he works as general manager of CSKA.
Sergei Nemtsanov, a diver in the water, fled in 1976.
He was born in 1959 in the city of Frunze. He was an orphan, and with living parents. His father was a military pilot and only sent alimony, and the mother disappeared under unknown circumstances. Sergei was brought up by his grandmother. As a child, 13-year-old Nemtsanov and his grandmother were forced to move from Frunze, where the jumping section closed in Alma-Ata. At 17 he was a real contender for the Olympics in Montreal. At every opportunity, Sergey bought gifts to his beloved grandmother.
Sergei was not found in the Olympic Village at the 1976 Games. There were rumors that the reason for escaping to the West could be a love affair with the daughter of American millionaire Carroll. According to another version, he was simply deceived into an unfamiliar house, where he was forced to write a statement refusing to return to his homeland. The athlete himself later said that he had been stupefied with drugs.
“Something strange was happening to me,” he said, “some incomprehensible itch in the whole body, my head ached, my legs and arms were like cotton, even now I can not remember the details of those days, everything was as if in a fog, and my whole body ached. ”
Agents of the Soviet secret services arrived in Montreal and persuaded Sergei to return, even gave to listen to the tape recording, in which the grandmother who brought up the guy begged not to throw her alone, not to dig a grave, rather to return. It became decisive and the guy, forgetting about Carroll, returned to his homeland.
Sergei was forced to withdraw from jumping and opened his repair shop for Mercedes in Alma-Ata, which helped the former sportsman survive.
Many years later Nemtsanov moved to Atlanta with his second wife, where he continued to repair cars in a car repair shop.
Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov, figure skaters, fled in 1979.
September 24, 1979 the famous Soviet figure skaters Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov asked for political asylum in Switzerland, where they came with demonstration performances. At that time they were twice Olympic champions (1964, 1968), four time world champions (1965-1968), five-time champions of the USSR in pair skating decided to leave the country and stay abroad.
This couple had creative motives to stay abroad. They explained their actions by the impossibility of being creatively realized in the Soviet Union, where they were simply oppressed. Despite the not young age, the desire to ride was left, and it could only be carried out abroad, where their talent could still please the fans.
Immediately after the escape, the skaters went on tour with the American ballet on ice. Later in the US, they trained young skaters.
In 1988, the pair had the opportunity to perform at the Olympics in Calgary, in demonstration performances, but they were not allowed to do so by the chairman of the USSR State Sports Committee, Marat Grammov. He said that if Belousova and Protopopov speak, then the closing of the Games will take place without the participation of Soviet athletes.
Since 1995, figure skaters have Swiss citizenship and live in the small Swiss village of Grindelwald. In 2003, Protopopov and Belousov for the first time in almost a quarter of a century visited the house, but stay at home the skaters did not want.
Gata Kamsky, a chess player, fled in 1989.
He was born in Novokuznetsk in 1974. Parents divorced a few months after the birth of the baby, and from eight months Gatu was brought up by his father Rustam, a former boxer. Father and son moved to Leningrad from Siberia. The boy received his name from his grandfather, the famous director Gatfulla Sabirov.
Gata grew up as a gifted boy: he began reading at two years old, playing chess at eight. The boy was engaged in other sports, in particular, gymnastics and boxing.
The father took care of the child, constantly developing it. In this the father was strict before manic.
Soon after Gata became the USSR champion among the young men, the father decided that the son would achieve more in the West. After one of the tournaments in 1989 in New York, Rustam with his 15-year-old son remained in the United States. Soon Kamsky won the championship of this country, then won several international tournaments.
In 1996, Elista Gata played the title of world champion in the version of FIDE with Anatoly Karpov. After suffering a crushing defeat, Gata forever left chess. In the US, he received a law degree and opened his own firm.
Viktor Korchnoi, a chess player, fled in 1976.
Victor was born in Leningrad in a Polish-Jewish family, whose parents soon dispersed and the boy stayed with his father. Korchnoi survived the blockade, but soon his father died, and he began to live with his stepmother.
In 1976, after the tournament in Amsterdam, the chess player decided not to return to his homeland, remaining in Holland. According to him, the USSR Chess Sport Federation did not give him the opportunity to participate in the World Championships, inviting younger players to the team. The reason for such statements was the lost match for the title of champion Anatoly Karpov in 1974, after which he attacked the entire Soviet system as a whole and the winner of the match in particular.
Left to live in Holland, Korchnoi soon moved to Switzerland, where he received political asylum, and later citizenship.
In Switzerland, he regularly participated in the Chess Olympiads, but he was not able to win the titles.
Korchnoi plays to this day, remaining the oldest grandmaster in the world.