The first student sport clubs opened in Russia in the early 20th century. By 1904 Russia had 40 student clubs, 13 of which were located in Petersburg, 5 in Moscow, and 4 in Kiev, now the capital city of Ukraine. In 1911 the student fencing societies of Petersburg formed a student league, which staged annual foil and spadroon fencing tournaments among students of civil and military universities and colleges. Fencing was also included in the first All-Russian Olympiads, which took place in Kiev in 1913 and in Riga in 1914.
The first Institute of Physical Culture was established in Moscow in 1918, and the Fencing and Hand-to-Hand Fighting department opened in 1924. From 1929 other non-specialized universities started opening sports departments at which point physical education became a required subject.
In the photo: students of the group majoring in fencing at the Physical Culture Institute with their instructors V. A. Arkadyev and A. M. Ponomariova (April 28, 1949).
In 1936-1937, voluntary sporting societies (VSS) started to form across Russia. Upon their creation, physical training collectives of various universities and institutes became members of such sporting societies depending on their professional affiliation. For instance, medical institutes joined the VSS "Medic", pedagogical colleges joined the VSS "Teacher", while transport institutes joined the VSS "Locomotive", etc. As a rule, student athletes competed among themselves within their respective sporting societies.
The creation in 1957 of the All-Union Student Sporting Society "Burevestnik" [Shearwater] facilitated the unification of students and development of student sports. In the 1960s, fencing societies opened at the Moscow State University, Moscow State University of Communications, Petersburg University of Communications, Moscow Institute of Power Engineering, and other leading institutions.
Demonstration fencing bouts of Moscow State University Students on September 1, 1969
University championships and nationwide student tournaments are held annually. Student fencers regularly stage demonstration fencing bouts on public holidays. Rehearsed fancy-dress mini-plays performed by students were true crowd-pullers. Now they are stage fencing.
Demonstration bouts of Moscow State University Students on September 1, 1973
Musketeer team of the Moscow State University with their coach
In the early 1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and due to economic hardships plaguing the country, student sports experienced a severe decline. The year 1993 saw the revival of the Russian Student Sports Union as a legal successor of "Burevestnik". With this came the gradual revival of the traditions of holding Russian championship in many kinds of sport, fencing included.
Student sports today
Moscow State University of Communications students Aleksey Cheremisinov (2006 Youth Spartakiad of Russia champion in the team tournament and bronze winner in the individual tournament) and Olga Kochneva (champion in the team tournament and silver winner in the individual tournament).