Putin Brings Back Stalin-Era Fitness Program — Time To Panic?

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Putin-slidePhoto: ITAR-TASS Photo Agency/Alamy; illustrated by Ly Ngo.
As controversial world leaders go, Vladimir Putin has always been up there with the best of them. Of course, as recent events in Crimea have completely taken over the Internet and cable news, talk of a "new Cold War" has begun bouncing around Twitter and the blogosphere. And, while it's definitely premature to start shopping for a bomb shelter, there are a few signs that Russia's often-shirtless judo champion of a president is getting a bit nostalgic for the USSR's heyday.

One example: The Atlantic reports that Putin is bringing back a '30s-era national fitness program conceived by mustachioed dictator Joseph Stalin. An executive order signed on Monday ordered the revival of the state-sponsored program known as "GTO," which translates to "Ready for Labor and Defense." Back in Soviet times, GTO was a mandatory part of life for every person in the Union, though activities varied by age group. Young men and women aged 16 to 18 were subjected to a wide range of drills, from weight training to cross-country skiing to grenade-throwing (!). Women aged 35 to 55 and men aged 40 to 60 were roped into mandatory annual championships, competing for medals in strength, skill in organized sports, and other categories. Even 7- to 9-year-olds were expected to participate.

Details are still fuzzy, so we won't know the lengths to which Putin will go to accomplish his goal of "attracting the vast majority of our citizens to take part in regular physical training." One thing is clear, though — this ain't "Let's Move!" (The Atlantic)