Soviet Hippies had a tough life. The Soviet Union was the most isolated of all the Soviet bloc states. It was the furthest away from Western information flow. And it suffered from one of the most repressive responses to hippies anywhere. Yet precisely because of such an adverse environment, Soviet hippies created a highly organised and extremely long-lived subculture, outperforming their Western peers both in intensity and survival skills. One of the keys to their success was the creation of a sophisticated and effective counter-landscape – a veritable Soviet hippieland. Starting with the origins of the Moscow hippie ‘sistema’, this paper will trace the growth of a spatial hippie network from the late 1960s to the end of the Soviet Union. It will show how hippies appropriated and re-interpreted spaces, cleverly making use of the peculiarities of late socialism and cementing their identity by constant circular re-enforcement between hippie identity and hippie sites. By the late 1980s their spatial network stretched from Vladivostok to Lvov, from Ufa to Leningrad, providing the backbone on which 1990s alternative cultures flourished.
Juliane Fürst is Reader of Modern History at the University of Bristol. From August she will head the department Communism and Society at the Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung in Potsdam. She is the author of Stalin’s Last Generation: Soviet Post-War Youth and the Emergence of Mature Socialism (OUP 2010) and editor of Dropping out of Socialism: The Creation of Alternative Spheres in the Soviet Bloc (Lexington 2016). She is currently working on a monograph about the Soviet Hippies titled Flowers through Concrete: Explorations in the Soviet Hippieland.