Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




When Climbing Became Competitive: How Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union Sportified Vertical Space

This event was held virtually as a Zoom webinar and streamed via YouTube Live.

Please join the East Central European Center at the Harriman Institute for a presentation by Carolin Roeder, István Deák Visiting Assistant Professor of History.

Everyone who has been to a bouldering or climbing gym knows that you don’t need mountains anymore to go climbing. In the past two decades, climbing on artificial walls has turned from a niche to a mainstream sport. With a year delay, climbing is going Olympic—to the chagrin of many professional climbers. In this talk, Carolin Roeder will reveal the hidden history of climbing competitions and why Tokyo 2021 is a Soviet dream come true. Tune in for a Cold War drama featuring an inventive Russian climbing instructor, Polish climbing diplomacy, and a Soviet charm offensive that ultimately won over the West.

Carolin Roeder is the István Deák Visiting Assistant Professor of History at the Harriman Institute and a Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. In 2016-2017 she was a Visiting Lecturer at Mount Holyoke College. Roeder is a broadly trained environmental historian with a transnational approach to the histories of Central and Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union. Engaging with transnational questions of sport, technology, environment, and politics, her current book project explores the internationalization and sportification of recreational climbing in the twentieth century.


Event Video