Flower Children

The article by William Risch “Soviet ‘Flower Children’. Hippies and the Youth Counter-culture in 1970s L’viv” discusses the Soviet Youth and their reactions towards the many changes the communist party were trying to put on L’viv and their feelings of isolation during 1970s. Hippies were made up of the rebellious, free spirited youth, and became a large part of post-world culture. The communist party in L’viv wanted to control over all aspects of the public sphere, as a result the hippies of L’viv rebelled. The hippies acted against sociality norms and soviet ideals. Hippies were stereotyped and publicly marginalized, hippies were said to be “bowing to the west” because they adopted western cloths and music. Interestingly enough Risch points out how hippies did adopt ideas from The Communist Youth Organization, one of the major groups against hippie ideals. Although the hippies in the Soviet Union were different from their western counter parts both were made up of youth feeling isolated and had new ideals for the world.

Flower Power, Not

While the article is interesting in describing a segment of the youth in the USSR during the 1970s to classify these youths as hippies seems to be a stretch. If being rebellious and listening to psychedelic rock classifies a person as a hippie then the hippie movement is alive and well. The article described a subset of youths that seem to show a rebellious spirit. They thumb their noses to the Communist Youth organization; they have issues with their parents and desire individuality. They want to listen to artist such as the Doors, Hendrix and the Beatles. The author portrays them as wanting to be part of the international hippie movement and at the same moment reflecting their Soviet indoctrination. Interestingly the government did not view this group of the same magnitude as western hippies or they would have quickly suppressed the movement.

In comparing this article to the World Festival of Youth and Students article it in some senses backs up the undertow of some Soviet youths even in 1957. The 1957 article highlighted how the Soviet youths wanted to go to parties and listen to western music. Some were punished for their behavior for displaying un-Soviet like conduct. Youths just started to spread their wings and taste freedom. This article to is less about the hippie movement and more about the continuation of the overall feelings that were starting to manifest themselves that eventually helped move the USSR to push for more empowerment and eventually freedom.

L’viv Hippies and the Soviet Child

The hippies in L’viv were acting upon feelings of isolation in a modern industrial world, their perceptions of hypocrisy of Soviet Communist organizations, and a general yearning for individualism. Unlike Natalia and Gennadii, who were introduced to us in Raleigh’s “Sputnik Generation”, these hippies of the late 1960s and ’70s did not feel the same natural obligation to obey their parents and the soviet societal structure. In fact, many youths were drawn to the hippie culture by family conflicts. Also, unlike Western hippies of the time, the L’viv hippies were acting within a state in which the communist party attempted control over all aspects of the public sphere. Because of such communist control, the hippies rebelled against societal norms by following typical behavior of the Soviet identity. For example, although hippies saw the Communist Youth Organization as “veiled in hypocrisy”, hippie groups imitated the elements of structure and hierarchy as seen in the practices of communist youth organizations. Therefore, hippies were rebelling against Soviet society by structuring themselves in a way that was, in fact, Soviet.

Just as gender discrepancies were brought to light in Natalia’s discussion of her work and family, hippie gatherings and the hippie culture in general also raised the question of a woman’s role in society. Even in a movement embodying Soviet counter-culture, men still dominated in numbers and power. Women’s participation in the hippie movement was viewed as inappropriate and outside of the natural sphere, just as Natalia’s position as the head of the language department remained outside the normal role for women. Like the Sputnik Generation, the hippies were living within an era of conservatism. What pushed the hippies to rebel against Soviet society in the 1970s while others, such as Natalia and Gennadii, were content to grow up within the Soviet structure? Because the Soviet period spanned over vacillating periods of tradition and change, as well as political stagnancy and progression, there can be no typical “Soviet child”. There may be a continued ideal for a child’s behavior throughout the Soviet period, but this ideal is never met (or challenged) in the same way throughout Soviet generations.


Peace, Love, and Rock and Roll in the USSR

In the discussion of Raleigh’s chapters exploring the Sputnik Generation in the USSR, the notion that during the 1950s and 1960s Soviet society shared many similarities to that of the United States in their gender relations and in their restrictive childhoods. William Risch’s article, “Soviet ‘Flower Children.’ Hippies and the Youth Counter-culture in 1970s L’viv,” continues to examine the cultural similarities between the two warring nations. More particularly, Risch seeks to address how the hippies in the Soviet Union affected the counter-culture that emerged among the generation born after the end of World War II (page 565).

The three previous readings in addition to Risch’s article all focus on the idea of the developing Soviet childhood in a post-war and post-Stalin Soviet Union. Margaret Peacock discussed the differences between the Communist Party’s expectations for children and the actual behaviors of children in the post-war society by focusing on the 1957 Moscow World Youth Festival. The Party still excepted the children to act in a discipline manner and obey their elders, something the interviewees in Raleigh’s article illustrated. However, during the festival many Soviet children disregarded these perceived notions of their behavior and acted in non-Party sanctioned ways (i.e. clubbing, drinking excessively). This juxtaposition between expectation and reality illustrates the restricted freedom all Soviet youths experienced in the 1950s and 1960s.

As Risch’s article indicates, the hippies within the Soviet Union (and perhaps America, as well) constituted a powerful minority amongst the children of their generation. Hippies in the Soviet Union, especially L’viv, experienced alienation due to their counter-cultural views (page 572). This along with the diverging notions of child behavior between the Party expectations and reality make it difficult to identify one cohesive idea of a Soviet Childhood in the post-Stalin Soviet Union. However, I believe it could be argued that the majority of children growing up in a post-war Soviet society, particularly those of families associated with the Party such as Natalia P., experienced the “typical” Soviet childhood of restricted freedom.