Russian president Vladimir Putin appeared with actor Steven Seagal at a Moscow martial arts school Wednesday to promote physical fitness in the nation's youth.
"I think it would be quite appropriate to recall the positive experience of past decades when the so-called GTO, Ready for Labour and Defence, was in use in our country," he said. The GTO physical training program was introduced under Joseph Stalin in 1931 to prepare youth for service in the Red Army.
Under the program, school and university students were required to pass the physical tests, and those who qualified would receive silver or gold badges. The GTO program ceased to exist when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Putin, 60, has a reputation as a martial artist, outdoorsman and adventurer, frequently appearing in publicity photos participating in extreme sports and tranquilizing wild animals. Part of his popularity is rooted in nostalgia for Soviet-era law and order, and he remains Russia's most popular politician despite widespread protest and opposition.
"The revival of this system — in a new, modern format — could bring major benefits." Putin says the nation's young people need to be fit "to stand up for themselves, their family and, in the final run, the fatherland."
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told a government meeting chaired by Putin that his agency would work to introduce the physical training standards nationwide by 2016.