The Eighth Page

Exeter Swapped A-Bomb For Soviet-Style Gymnasium

This week marks the 58th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s first atomic bomb test. While most Americans reacted to the news with shock and fear, the Exeter community was proud. Just one year before Stalin’s scientists tested their A-Bomb, they purchased the weapons technology and information from Exeter’s science department. In exchange, Exeter received a Soviet gymnasium, one that, unlike the USSR, remains intact. The facility was named the Love Gymnasium in honor of the relationship between Exeter and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Chair of the Science Department since 1941, Dr. Archibald Trotsky looks back on the arrangement with satisfaction. “As I chatted with the great Stalin about the deal, we both knew it would be something special,” Trotsky recalled. The Academy agreed to give Stalin’s communist government the sophisticated plans and means to build an A-Bomb to compete with the United States’ nuclear capabilities because it was “the ultimate example of non sibi” and “a very lucrative deal,” Trotsky says. In return for their nuclear boost, Exeter was visited by some of communist Russia’s finest architects. They speedily designed a Soviet gymnasium for the Exeter campus that had both “the beauty of a cement yard” and “the exterior of a sidewalk.” The Love Gymnasium is home to two indoor hockey rinks. During the 1980 Winter Olympics, Exeter excitedly invited the Soviet hockey team to practice in the Love Gymnasium so that it might “have a shot at beating those stupid Americans.” The exercise and weight rooms are covered with reminders of the building’s Soviet inspiration. Slogans like “you can do it if everyone in the room could also do it” provide for that extra ounce of strength during those long workouts. Architecture students in the Exeter Art Department admire the building with their double period each week. Tommy Lenin looked up at the Love Gymnasium and the 40,000,000 metric tons of concrete forming its exterior and uttered a simple “mikraka-karpuzzi.”