Ready for the work and defense of the USSR (Gotov k trudu i oborone SSSR), abbreviated GTO () was the training program in physical culture of the Union, introduced in the USSR on March 11, 1931 on the initiative of the Komsomol. It was a complement to the unified sports classification system of the USSR. While the latter provided only requirements for the Soviet physical education system, GTO was a program for all Soviet citizens of almost all ages. In 1976, 220 million people received GTO badges, while in 1986 the tests were approved by 33.9 million people.
Initially, the GTO had a level with three age groups. To obtain the GTO badge, an individual had to pass 21 tests, 13 of which had concrete standards. Sports in the country were only beginning to develop; there were a few fitness collectives by companies and organizations, which could organize physical training, and the GTO offered the unique opportunity to involve people in sports activities, hence the variety of tests. On December 7th, 1932, the second level was introduced for the same three age groups. This has been done to stimulate the improvement of the skills of those who have passed the first level. The second level consisted of 24 tests, 19 of which had concrete standards. Each test result could be one of two: “passed” and “unsuccessful”. The next change followed in 1934, when the third level was introduced, with two age groups: for 13-14 and 15-16 year olds. This level had a distinct name – “Be prepared for the work and defense of the USSR” (), abbreviated as “BGTO”. This defined the structure of the GTO for many years: it had the stages “BGTO”, “GTO 1st level” and “GTO 2nd level” until 1972. After setting up the structure of the GTO program, the The following revisions have been made to the test system, which is applicable for assessing the physical conditions of different age groups of the population; improvements in standards requirements; specifying the age limits of the levels. In 1939, the tense international situation led to the inclusion of tests, necessary to prepare young people to serve in the Red Army, and to prepare the whole population for the eventual war. Disciplines such as “crawling”, “walking fast feet”, “throwing a pile of grenades”, “climbing”, “carrying a box of cartridges”, various martial arts were introduced. Most of them were removed after the Second World War. Only “throw a grenade” and “50 m small arms shot” (men only) remained.
The 1946 revision, as well as the importance of the OTG for military and work activities, underlined its health protection aspect. In many tests, the standards have been reduced, reflecting the devastation and famine that have worsened people’s health. The 1959 revision saw a new evaluation system. To win the GTO badge, a person had to collect a certain number of points, passing all the tests. This has stimulated the interest of the individual to obtain the best possible results in all tests of the program.
The main changes to the GTO program took place in 1972, after extensive scientific testing and approval of the implementation of this program by the NII of Physical Culture throughout the Union. The main principles of the program have been extensively tested in Severodonetsk and Salavat. The program was approved on 17 January 1972 by a decision of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the USSR. Age limits were extended from 14-46 to 10-60 and included eight age groups over five levels (compared to five age groups on three levels previously). Each level () had its name. They were: Since 1974, the All-Union All Around GTO Competition took place, where the gold medal “USSR All Around GTO Champion” () was awarded for first place. In 1975, 37 million people participated in the competition, 500 people participated in the final. In 1985, the sixth level was introduced – “Ready for departure” () – for boys and girls from 7 to 9 years old. Thus, the GTO program included almost all ages.
After the break-up of the USSR in 1991, the GTO program was eliminated in most of the former Soviet republics. In Russia, the GTO program had not been in existence for a decade, but began to be relaunched since 2003. On March 24, 2014, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to restore GTO in the modern Russian Federation under the same traditional name.