Life in the 'hairy underground': the lost history of Soviet hippies

the Guardian | 10/23/2019 | Luke Harding


In 1968, Aksel Lampmann was a teenager growing up in Soviet Estonia. That summer, he went to an international camp, where he met students from Czechoslovakia and began listening to the Beatles. He didn’t understand the lyrics (“No one spoke English back then”), but loved the sound. “We had no clue what they were singing about. What a strange vibration!”

He learned guitar and grew his hair. By 1969, Lampmann had become a full-blown Soviet hippy. The iron curtain made a road trip to the US impossible, so he hitchhiked from his home in the Baltics to Crimea. “Our lives were more colourful, more alive,” he says. “Other people didn’t have the same encounters or emotions.”

Lampmann - Stars - Hippies - Film - Writer

Lampmann is one of the stars of Soviet Hippies, a film by the Estonian writer and director Terje Toomistu about a lost period in Soviet history. The documentary explores a subculture that was inspired by the west yet distinctly homegrown – existing in a society shaped by communism and watched over by the KGB.

“In the west, nobody was arrested simply for having long hair or wearing strange clothes,” Toomistu explains. The USSR, by contrast, wanted complete control of its citizens’ lives: how people worked, dressed, or even danced. Anyone who rejected the Homo sovieticus model could be in “big trouble”, including having their hair forcibly cut.

Soviet - Movement - Moscow - Leningrad - Years

The Soviet hippy movement emerged in Moscow and Leningrad around 1966 and 1967, in the early years of Leonid Brezhnev’s rule. The first red hippies were the sons or daughters of the privileged Soviet nomenklatura – well-behaved kids from elite families. They had access to music from the capitalist world and to jeans. By the early 70s, the movement had grown sufficiently big and unruly to alarm the authorities – though it probably only ever numbered a few thousand, Toomistu says....
(Excerpt) Read more at: the Guardian
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