American Football in Russia Billboard 1989

AAFUSSR Association of American Football in USSR Championship Games 1989-1991

Championship Games 1989-1991

Union of American Football USSR Championships

Match Day Union of American Football USSR 1st Game 1989
(Union of American Football USSR 1st Game 1989)
26 - 0

Moscow Bruins (Bears) vs Kharkov Atlantis

Match Day Association of American Football USSR 1990
(Association of American Football USSR 1990)
Win - Loss

Moscow Swans vs Moscow Eagles

Match Day Association of American Football USSR Snow Bowl 1991
(Association of American Football USSR Snow Bowl 1991)

Moscow Bruins (Bears)

Match Day Association of American Football USSR Championship 1991
(Association of American Football USSR Championship 1991)
Win - Loss

Moscow Bruins (Bears) vs Moscow Swans

Note: Only the Final Match above is Considered a True Championship Game in Russia / CIS. The rest pre-cursor Games, Tournaments and Bowls


In 1979 American Promoter Tom Kelly, as Irish a name as your will find, approached the USSR with a proposal to form an American Football League in what was then the USA’s biggest enemy. With the Cold War not showing signs of thawing, the functionaries in the Kremlin turned down the proposal. By 1989, however, with Gorbachev in power the thaw was in full swing, and the first American Football match was played in Moscow, between two College teams: The “Stars” beat the “Bummers” took place in the Spring of 1989 in the Dynamo Arena.

By July 1989 there had been formed a team in Moscow – the Moscow Bears (also known as Bruins) and by September 17, 1989 they had played their first match, a 77-6 loss in West Berlin to a more experienced German team. In November 1989, The first match between two Soviet teams: Moscow Bears and Kharkov Atlantis (now in Independent Ukraine), was won 26-0 by Moscow Bears. This meeting led to the formation of the first Union of American Football in USSR. By the end of the month, however, disagreements had arisen, and the formation of an Independent Association of American Football in USSR soon had the approval of the European Football League, then the governing body of the sport in Europe, and most teams in USSR were now members of the new Association.

In November 1990, after a couple more International Friendlies and a tour of USA where the Moscow Bears defeated the semi-professional Charlotte Bandits, the first two tournaments were played in USSR, with Moscow Swans defeating Moscow Eagles. The defeat of the Americans at their own game created a massive interest in the press in the new sport, and by February 1991 the first “Snow Bowl” was played between five teams: Moscow Bears, Moscow Swans, Moscow Eagles, Chelyabinsk Federals and Donetsk Bisons, with Moscow Bears winning the Snow Bowl undefeated.

The Snow Bowl is considered a precursor to the first American Football Championship of the USSR which started that spring, featuring six teams: Moscow Bears, Moscow Swans, Caspian Sphinxes, Kharkov Atlantis, Donetsk Skiffs (Scythians?) and Minsk Zubrs (Bison). Moscow Bears were Champions of this, the only full American Football Championship of the USSR, watched by a guest invitee: the President of Severn Vale Royals American Football Team from Gloucester, England. In March of 1991, Moscow Swans made more Russian American Football history, representing the USSR in the Eurobowl (European Champions Cup) where they were defeated 44-14 in the first round by Finland’s Helsinki Roosters.

By now the USSR had broken up and been replaced by the CIS – Commonwealth of Independent States – and a new competition, the CIS Championship was born. Kharkov Atlantis appear to be named after the ancient Greek myth of Atlantis, which was beyond the “Pillars of Hercules” which has been variously described as being beyond the Straits of Gibraltar with Ireland and Cornwall mentioned as possible places for Atlantis due to Irish and Cornish tin showing up in Ancient Greek Bronze objects (Bronze is an alloy of Copper and tin). Atlantis has also been suggested as being situtated in the Black Sea, where Kharkov is situated, beyond the Dardanelles between Mainland Europe and Asiatic Turkey. [References: 4-5]

American Football in Russia Billboard 1989
Billboard Poster advertising the first ever American Football match in USSR: “Stars” v “Bummers”.


[1] American Football in Russia (2017) History of American Football in USSR and Russia [Internet] Available from: [Accessed 24 December 2017]

[2] Anon. (1991) “Curtain Call” First Down. September 29, 1991. pg. 10. Published by Mediawatch, Charlbury, Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom.


[3] American Football (Russia) (2017) History in Russia | Billboard Advertising First College Game in Russia 1989 [Internet] Available from:×600.jpg%5BAccessed 24 December 2017]

Journal Articles

[4] Roaring water Press (2020) Bronze Age Copper Mining [Internet] Available from: [Accessed 30 October 2020]


[5] Barry Cunliffe (2020) The Atlantean Irish: Ireland’s Oriental and Maritime Heritage [Internet] Availavle from: [Accessed 30 October 2020]


Thanks to Robert Gorby & Enda Fahy.


Researched, compiled and written by Enda Mulcahy for the

Eirball | Irish North American and World Sports Archive

Last Updated: 7 October 2021

(c) Copyright Enda Mulcahy and Eirball 2021

You may quote this document in part provided that proper acknowledgement is given to the authors. All Rights Reserved. The Logos and Photos used in this article remain the property of the organisations and individuals which own the copyright and are used here for educational and information purposes only.

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