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The Karting Era in the Soviet Union

In our previous discussion, we explored the origin of go-karts. Now, let’s delve into the glorious days of the former Soviet Union in the last century. The Soviet Union, known as CCCP in Russian (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), was more accustomed to using longer names even for commonplace entities, such as referring to department stores during the Soviet era as department store (universal store). Speaking of which, let’s briefly introduce the two countries that have been in the global spotlight today: Ukraine and Russia.

During the Soviet era, Ukraine was known as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic or USSR). As for Russia, its name was the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic or RSFSR). After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia adopted its current name, the Russian Federation.

During the heyday of the Soviet Union, it was indeed a period of prosperity. I’ve had conversations with older Russians who reminisced that participation in motorsports, including kart racing, was not limited to the nobility; it was a state-sponsored endeavor to nurture talent, provided free of charge. They describe it casually, akin to having sports facilities provided downstairs in a residential complex, indicating the high level of happiness among the Soviet people at that time.

Returning to the topic, go-karts entered the Soviet Union in 1961, roughly four years later than in Western countries. However, their first kart race in the same year deviated from the norm by choosing not an asphalt track but the ice rink of Moscow’s Central Lenin Stadium, perhaps due to seasonal considerations. In May of the same year, a race with only 10 participants drew an astonishing 35,000 spectators, creating an incredibly lively atmosphere. In that era, the leader of this sport in the Soviet Union was not Moscow but Latvia. Therefore, in September 1962, national karting drivers decided to start a national tour from Riga, Latvia. The venues sometimes included parks or even borrowed bicycle tracks, including elements from bicycle racing events.

Notably, by that year, the competition had already been divided into two engine displacement categories: 125cc and 175cc. The number of drivers exceeded 80, representing regions such as Belarus, Moscow, Leningrad, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Uzbekistan, and Krasnoyarsk. The scale had already crossed the Eurasian continent. The championship that year was won by a driver from Moscow.

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