Spartak Moscow: A History of the People's Team in the Worker's State by Robert Edelman is the definitive history of Russian soccer. It is a complicated history to say the least, but it is also a fascinating one. This academic title is brilliantly written, full of player biographies and match highlights, from all periods of that country's soccer rollercoaster.
It is a story of brilliance amongst tyranny and beauty amongst despair. Spartak represented the best of Russian soccer even though it was far from perfect. Like Ajax during World War II, the Moscow club had its share of secrets. But it also had its lion's share of hardware, including 12 Soviet championships.
Spartak's Nikolai Starostin could be considered the "Father of Russian Football" because he set the standard for how things were done in the beautiful game. He was a trendsetter, a man who helped grow the game in Russia despite a difficult, often impossible environment of a Stalinist government. Nikolai had a passion for the sport that was so great that he served 12 years in a forced labor camps because he was so successful and so resourceful. Even though I consider myself a student of the game, I have to say I didn't know the name even though it is greatly evident that I should have.
If you want to know the Russian game, you have to know Spartak. And the Russian story will continue to be a relevant one thanks to the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the hordes of international stars tempted by the riches of the Russian oligarchs. And the story began with just four brothers and a dream of something better in what could be best explained as a complex social and political situation. If soccer can survive under communism and under Stalin, it can thrive anywhere.