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.


View On Their “Lost Generation”

Both interviews that Donald J. Raleigh performed struck me to have very different perceptions. The two interviewees definitely represented different attitudes towards the subject of their lives, but this was mainly due to their backgrounds, Gennadii Viktorovich Ivanov definitely gave the feeling that he had “formulated his answers specifically” for the interview and was careful of what information he disclosed, but one would expect a policeman or an operative to act in such a way. Natalia P. on the other hand seemed to be less careful and cautious in what she said in the duration of her interview. Both Gennadii and Natalia seemed to agree in that they did not consider themselves as to be apart of a “lost generation”.

Natalia Pronina discusses the way in which she participated in activities that made her youth-self different from the generations after her. She explains that her generation expressed much more freedom and expressiveness, which adults at the time did not like and were not used to, she says ”the next generation no longer subordinated themselves to her” (regarding her director who rejected her short skirt). She referred to her life as a normal life, where she was in a comfortable and happy situation, although she mentions she both lost and gained certain things throughout her time growing up. She explains the way her parents instilled both the sense of duty and responsibility into her in which today’s younger generation has no grasp on.

In regards to the way he grew up, Gennadii Ivanov explains it to have been much like the way his parents grew up, especially considering their views. He makes no complaints in the way he grew up and like Natalia seems to have expressed a comfortable upbringing. Gennadii does share the same opinion as Natalia, he does not consider his generation to be termed a lost generation, but considers later generations to be lost. He also explains the way in which people really did not care about things that are considered important now, including money.

Both interviewees seem to share the same views on their generation; they describe it be a place where they were comfortable where old views were still held and where new views were being developed. Overall they did seem to express a belief in a change in where society was headed.

Sputnik Generation

In his two articles, Donald Raleigh interviewed two people, Natalia P and Victorovich Ivanov, who were from the city of Sarastov, in the Oblast region of Russia.  Both of whom grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, recalled memories of their childhood, families, events, and learning experiences during the early years of their lives.  Natalia’s interview was particularly striking to me.

One of the more striking points that Natalia P. made in her interview involved her discussion of her father.  Growing up in the mid fifties, she discussed the experience she had with her family.  She mentioned that despite some of the needs of the family, her father, as a university professor, did not care for the things he spent his money on. Although he spent his money on educating her, Natalia stated that despite the ties his father had with other prominent people and the fact that he could get certain things from those people, he “never regretted spending money on such things, on books, on education, on tutors, on music, on English lessons….yet nothing that was connected with living conditions interested him.” ((Donald Raleigh, “Russia’s Sputnik Generation: Soviet Baby Boomers talk about their lives” Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 103))  Although she did not talk about this, this belief  might suggest to the fact that her father was influenced by Stalins time in power.  During the Stalin era, people had to deal with having very little, particularly during the famines.  In addition, if you had too much stuff, you could have been accused of being a Kulak and be sent off to a Gulag for that.  For Natalia, it could be that her father was very much influenced by the painful time period that he grew up in.   One of the most important aspects that Natalia mentioned was that despite the lack of materials regarding living conditions, she was still provided education materials.  During Stalins time and throughout the 1950s, the state had recognized that the children were the future of the party.  In order to have them become good Soviet citizens,  the children had to be given a proper education so that they could push the state forward. As a result of Natalias mothers and fathers likely experience under Stalin, Natalia was given the same kind of upbringing by stating that their upbringing was passed down to her. ((Donald Raleigh, “Russia’s Sputnik Generation: Soviet Baby Boomers talk about their lives” Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 90)) This seems to suggest that although the Stalin era had ended, the memory and scaring of it for some Soviet citizens may very well have lasted well into the 1950s.

Do you think it was common to see people upbringing their children the same way Natalias father did?  If so, did the state try to make the rules clearer for its populous so that they could overcome the hard times of the Stalin era?

Sputnik Generation: Class and International Relations

What struck me most about the Russia’s Sputnik Generation reading, was the manner in which both interviewees approached class distinctions at their childhood school. Natalia P. seemed almost acutely aware of the types of people her school in Saratov attracted: primarily children of the intelligentsia. Gennadii Viktorovich Ivanov, on the other hand, seemed not to have placed much stock in the types of students at School 42, brushing off the question by merely stating that it wasn’t of interest to children back then.

It seems, however, that both Natalia and Gennadii agree that the school was filled primarily by the children of intelligentsia and skilled labor, not by the children of party officials or bureaucrats.

This could, perhaps, be a manifestation of Gennadii’s police background–he might not have wanted to divulge such information, or may have thought it an inappropriate question for an American to ask. Or, perhaps, Natalia P. just felt more sensitive during her adolescence, and noticed such trends, which Gennadii did not.

Beyond this, Gennadii’s views, specifically on the West, seem to echo the sentiment and rhetoric, which the criminal police espoused during the Soviet Union. Specifically, he views the West as not caring about Russian matters. He does, however, make the distinction that the average American probably doesn’t take notice of the events in Russia. Are his views typical of his generation?

The Sputnik Generation: Gender Roles as Defining Personality

In Ch. 3 of “Russia’s Sputnik Generation: Soviet Baby Boomers Talk about Their Lives”, editor and historian Donald J. Raleigh interviewed Natalia P. to discover what values, events and ideology shaped the formation of Soviet identity during 1960s and 1970s in the Soviet Union. Natalia P. is a language enthusiast, professor of foreign languages, mother and wife. Throughout this chapter, Natalia reminisced on her childhood during the Khrushchev era (1956-1964) and her adolescence and young adulthood during the Brezhnev era (1964-1982). When discussing the factors that shapes her own identity, Natalia pointed to her family values and credits her father as someone who taught her the importance of character and having strong principles in a society where bribing and using others to one’s advantage were common practices.

Through her own recollections, however, it is evident that Natalia’s own self-understanding comes from her strong identification with being a woman. When asked if she ever read any samizdat publications or participated in the dissident movement, Natalia replied “…it passed us by. You have to understand that it was all young women who studied in [her department]. We were not at all interested in politics. We were basically interested in boys and romance and…studying. Therefore samizdat didn’t circulate among us” (108). Raleigh also explicitly asked Natalia to explain how her gender defined her own identity and questioned whether her life would have been different if she had been born a man. To this, Natalia replied that she currently occupies a “exclusively man’s job at work” (108), adding that she was the only female department head (“can you imagine?” (108)) and claiming that she would like to “very much like to be a woman again, but I don’t like emancipation. What is, is. It’s too late” (108).

Although Soviet ideology emphasized gender equality (especially during the 1920s and 1930s), the reality and actual experiences of women in the Soviet Union shows otherwise. By claiming that females aren’t interested in politics, or that there are certain male positions, Natalia P. is making broad claims, yet is showing that her own self-understanding rests on this gender distinction. Was gender equality really as important in Soviet everyday life as it is ideologically claimed to be? For Natalia P, gender equality does not seem to be an issue. Indeed, her own identity rests on the fact that women and men are not equal. However, was this statement as universal as she claims? Did women feel unequal to men, and if so, was this a problem for their self-understanding?

Political Languages

Both Viktorovich and Natalia touch on the impact of learning English in grade school and, to an extent, elaborate on how they expanded that knowledge as they got older. This language was designated as a critical foreign language in the Soviet Union. How should we interpret this given the geographical distance between the USSR and the next English speaking country? In the United States, the common elementary language is Spanish. Is this because of the strong political and cultural influences coming from the other American countries and Spain? Doubtful.


The interviews from Saratov touch on the global political importance of knowing English during the late Soviet Union. Many resources abroad (radio programs, “European News”) were English influenced. The Soviet understanding of this allowed it to be a competitive power in the technological, cultural, and arms races.  This allowed many citizens of the USSR to embrace and understand global news and influences. Viktorovich displayed an understanding of the varying cultures he encountered in the army. Could this empathy been nurtured by his exposure to the global community? If so, language was his entrance to the discussion.

The United States’ pre-occupation with Spanish (not a State-recognized critical language) is not geared toward embracing a global political community. In fact, the cutting of Russian research funding seems to insinuate movement in the opposite direction — isolationism. Either that or the United States does not recognize the global influence Russia holds and this unprecedented cut was made out of arrogance, ignorance, or a mix of both.2008-469--America-and-Russia-agree