Jul 24, 2018

The Boys of Torzhok


This photo on Bygone Boys states:Football team “Novotorzhskaya sports mug” the Russian Empire. Torzhok, 1913.

Torzhok is a popular tourist town in Tver Oblast (previously Kalinen Oblast) about 200 km northwest of Moscow.  It has a Russian Historical and Ethnographic Museum, the historic Sts. Boris and Gleb Monastery, and the Novotorzhskiy Kremlin, a historic palace, where you apparently can get the sports mug.

It's interesting to look at the faces of men and boys from the past, try to imagine who they were, what they were doing when this moment of their lives was frozen, and what happened after.

Back in 1913, Torzhok was a small town, a backwater on the Tvertsa River (a tributary of the Volga), and football (soccer) was a relatively new sport in the Russian Empire.  In the late 19th century, British workers living in St. Petersburg began forming their own leagues.  Russians began following their model, forming leagues at first in St. Petersburg, and by the 1900s, in other cities of the Empire.  The Russian Premier League was founded in 1910.

These guys were groundbreakers.

No doubt many of them would be fighting in World War I and the Russian Revolution.  But imagine what those who survived would see in the course of their lives.

The end of the Russian Empire and the beginning of the Soviet Union.

Lenin

Stalin

World War II

The Cold War

Khrushchev

Television.

The first cosmonauts.

Maybe, in their old age, perestroika and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Today Torzhok still has a football team, as well as swimming and gymnastics.














The World Harmony Run, a global relay race through 100 countries promoting international friendship, passed through Torzhok in 2006.  This torchbearer may be the grandson or great-grandson of one of the Torzhok footballers.

Or two or three.








Or maybe they left.  Between 1 and 2 million people emigrated from Russia during the Revolution of 1917.  Most moved to Eastern Europe, Germany, and France, but thousands made it to the United States (including Vladimir Nabokov and Yul Brynner).

West Town in Chicago, near the gay neighborhood of Boystown, gained the nickname Little Russia.

West Hollywood also drew a large Russian community. 



Some of these men in the photo, later in life, may have belonged to SAGE, the gay senior citizen's group.  Their sons may have been regulars at the Faultline, their grandsons at the Rage, when I was living in West Hollywood in the 1980s and 1990s.  I may have dated them.

I always did have a thing for Russian guys, after all.

See also: My First Gay Rights March.


1 comment:

  1. How far south did Russian colonists in North America to? I know a lot of Indians in Alaska and coastal Washington made a political statement in the 50s and 60s by switching their orthography from Cyrillic to Ronan (Extended character sets, neither alphabet has characters for a lot of uvular comsonants, glottal stops, ejectives, certain laterals, etc.) to express disapproval with the Soviet regime. The interesting result being there are now two Unagan written languages.

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