The Russian Empire covered a vast territory and engulfed many cultures. Wrestling was popular throughout the region. it came in several varieties, including belt wrestling (each contender wore a thick belt and tried to grab his opponent's belt and throw him), shirt wrestling, and free wrestling.
In the 1930s, when Soviet culture was on the rise, Anatolij A. Kharlampiev, Viktor A. Spiridonov, and Vasilij S. Oschepkov synthesized Sambo (p. 185) from many indigenous wrestling styles and Judo. Sambo went on to become the official martial art of the USSR. Aside from Sambo, only Judo - as an Olympic sport - enjoyed official sanction. Sambo practitioners have often done well in Judo and mixed martial arts competitions. Other martial arts have made inroads in the post-Soviet era, but Sambo's roots are firmly established and it remains Russia's signature fighting style.
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