On February 22, 1913, Russia held its first international ski race in St. Petersburg. Participating was Nikolai Vasil’ev, the country’s teenaged national champion; competing against him were three Finnish skiers fresh from the Nordiska Spelen held in östersund, Sweden, three weeks before. Why did this group travel to St. Petersburg from Virolahti, and how was their presence in Russia significant to their compatriots watching the race? What impact did this ski race have on Vasil’ev, who published a memoir about it in 1950 at the behest of the Stalinist regime during the depths of the Cold War? This paper analyzes the various strata embedded in Vasil’ev’s narrative: his mental process during the ski race; how this experience determined Vasil’ev’s future expertise as a master wax technician; the important historical context of 1913; and how the USSR manipulated the story to promote its return to international competition at the 1952 Olympics.

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