Sport as cultural statecraft: Russia and the Kontinental Hockey League

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) was established in 2008 as an international professional ice hockey league emulating the paragon of North American National Hockey League (NHL). While there were both athletic and economic purposes for the league, it was from the outset also clearly a political project initiated by Vladimir Putin himself and meant to boost Russia’s self-image and international standing as the leading hub in Eurasia in the field of major team sports. Focussing on the case of Jokerit Helsinki in Finland and Dinamo Riga in Latvia, the chapter discusses attitudes towards the league among the political elite, the general public and sports enthusiasts alike. Although the media sometimes represent KHL as a part of Russia’s ‘hybrid threat’, the league has only been marginally discussed and perceived as a political project in Latvia and Finland. The league has not been able to separate politics from sport entirely, as political controversies have arisen related to Western sanctions on Russian owners of the clubs, the political situation in Belarus, and national COVID-19 restrictions. However, the league transmits an image of Russia as a normal country with which fans in the West can share a common culture.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRussia’s Cultural Statecraft
EditorsTuomas Forsberg, Sirke Mäkinen
Place of PublicationLondon and New York
ISBN (Electronic)9781003141785
ISBN (Print)9780367694357
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2021
Publication typeA3 Book chapter

Publication series

NameStudies in Contemporary Russia

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 3


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