Dancing on Bones: Russian hipsters and American realities during the height of the cold war


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In the 1950s, a subculture in the Soviet Union popped up, wearing bright colors, high-soled shoes, jamming to American style music and dance. But who were the sitlyagi and how well did they emulate American culture from across the Atlantic and the Iron Curtain?
Inspired by the 2008 hit Russian film "Stilyagi" by Valery Todorovsky.

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Dancing on Bones: Russian hipsters and American realities during the height of the cold war

  1. 1. Dancing on bones an hipsters and A merican realitiesRussi d uring the height of the Cold War
  2. 2. 1955
  3. 3. Stalin had just died.A power struggle sparked between Georgi Malenkov (inwhite), Nikita Khrushchev (left of Stalin) and VyacheslavMolotov (with mustache).
  4. 4. The CIA was a new organization andembarrassingly inept.Without ears in the Kremlin or amongRussias elite, most of their intel was usuallyold, unsubstantiated gossip.
  5. 5. They were often caught off-guard.Like on February 8, 1955.
  6. 6. Pro-West GeorgiMalenkov, considereda shoe-in for Premierby Western powers...
  7. 7. Pro-West GeorgiMalenkov, considereda shoe-in for Premierby Western powers......was ousted, unanimously, by thePresidium.
  8. 8. Khrushchev was notPremier yet, but theUnited States rightysuspected him to bethe muscle behindMalenkovs ousting.
  9. 9. "Althoughsuspicious ofcapitalists,[Khrushchev]wanted tobelieve theywere capable ofchange." --Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali in Khruchevs Cold War (page 24)
  10. 10. To: Kondrad Adenauer From: John Foster Dulles“...The present policies of theSoviet Union are born not out of itsstrength, but out of its weakness;not out of its successes, but out ofits failures."
  11. 11. In other words, the Americanswerent going to change.They had the technologicalupperhand and they knew it.Khrushchev would play to thissentiment during his own term.
  12. 12. “ We should increase the pressure… If we don’t have a meniscus, we let the enemy live peacefully.
  13. 13. Many aspects of American and Westernculture were restricted to the ordinarySoviet citizen.Even American music, jazz, was illegal.But… who were these folks?
  14. 14. Stilyagi стиляги
  15. 15. The term "stilyagi" first appeared in1945, from the humorist magazine,Krokadil.It referred to a person who dancedthe foxtrot or tango.The stilyagi sense of fashionwas quite scandalous to Sovietsensibilities
  16. 16. the anatomy — of a —Hipster
  17. 17. sTILYAGI sLANGHipster dude chuvak/chuvika hat shlyapa (actual) hetok to look smotret (actual) lykat
  18. 18. This iswhere all the coolkids hung out(Cocktail Hall)
  19. 19. Every ma jor city in the Soviet Union had a "Broadway" where the stilyagi would chillMoscow: Gorkii/Tverskaya Baku: Torgovaya StreetStreet Tashkent: Karl Marx/Leningrad: Nevskii Prospekt Saiyolgokh StreetKazan: Baymana Street Odessa: AeribasovskayaNizhnii Novgorod: Bolshaya Alma-At: The park aroundPokrovskaya Kalinina/Kabanbai StreetPerm: Komsomolskii Prospekt
  20. 20. Music was the defining feature of thestilyagi.They listened to jazz, boogie-woogie, swingand eventually rock-n-roll.Stilyagi would "import" their music fromless restrictive satellites on disgardedX-ray plates.
  21. 21. «na kostyakh» "on bones"
  22. 22. There were too many stilyagi tooppress and force out of society.The Soviet government resorted to…
  23. 23. 1 Propoganda films
  24. 24. 2 Public mockery in newsprint like Pravda
  25. 25. 3 The youthcommunist group, the Komsomsol,who often raidedtheir jam sessions
  26. 26. Today he plays jazz,tomorrow he sells his home!
  27. 27. "Stilyagi" 2008 "There are no hipsters in America.”
  28. 28. So what wasgoing on inAmerica duringthe 1950s?
  29. 29. Teenagers!
  30. 30. Teenagers! e the b aby boom ersthese ar
  31. 31. "Adolescence"is not a newconcept insociety.But whatAmerican teenshad, that no oneelse did until thatpoint, was buyingpower.
  32. 32. "Adolescence"was not a newconcept insociety.But whatAmerican teenshad, that no oneelse did untilthat point, wasbuying power.
  33. 33. In 1944, it was estimated that teenagers’ spending capacity was $750 million
  34. 34. Teen girls,like now,wereespeciallyinfluential inthe economyof 1945.
  35. 35. In 1944, two million men between 18and 35 had been drafted.
  36. 36. Girls were unmarried and had theirown sources of income
  37. 37. This is a picturefrom whatwould be calledthe "ColumbusDay Riot," when35,000 teengirls shut downTime Squareby refusingto leave thetheatersshowing FrankSinatras newestfilms.
  38. 38. Seventeen Magazine was the firstproduct released targeted to theteenage demographic
  39. 39. Teenagers have always disagreed with their parents.
  40. 40. But the backlashof Americanparents to thedeveloping"teeangeculture" wasstaggering andunprecidented.
  41. 41. RE YE S! ERTYOUAV
  42. 42. “The youthof the worldtoday istouched withmadness,literallysick with anaberrantcondition ofmind.”—Psychologist Robert Linder
  43. 43. It should come as no surprise then, that whenAmerican soldiers returned home, seeking normalcyand safety, the 1950s became a decade known for itsrules and stiff regulations
  44. 44. A teen recalls the strict rules:
  45. 45. Boys hair touching the ears wasnt allowed, often punishable byexpulsion from school.Most girls werent allowed to wear pants, and boys werent allowed towear blue jeans.Stanford University prohibited the wearing of jeans in public during the1950s.The new slang—hipster talk—was part African American, part beatnikand part street gang... an offensive combination in the eyes of the statusquo.There was alarm about teens dating and "heavy petting." Any talk aboutsex was taboo and could be punishable.Many parents were worried about their daughters adoring black rockmusicians, fearing the possibility of racial commingling.Hot rods were considered dangerous. All it took was a few fatalaccidents and the other 99% of the custom cars and hot rods wereconsidered a menace to public safety.• Dancing to rocknroll music was often banned, with school and teendances shut down.
  46. 46. In a touch of irony...American-styled hipsters in Russiawere suppressed for espousing non-Soviet valuesandAmerican teenagers, in general,were suppressed by their superiorsfor being different and "wild."
  47. 47. Meanwhile... ...back in Moscow
  48. 48. The stilyagi would eventually loseits foothold as the Soviet Unionopened under Khrushchev.The ban on jazz was dropped by1957.And later that year, the sixth Youthand Students Festival was hosted inMoscow.
  49. 49. outh ld Festival of Y at the 6th WorO pening Ceremonies s, Moscow 195 7 and Student
  50. 50. c ame. Young 0 countries pe opl e from 13 l concerts.34,000 ded jazz an d rock-n-rolpeopl e floo
  51. 51. In 1959, Khrushchev made a trip to the United States, which a quick stop at Disneyland(cancelled last minute due to uncertainty concerning his safety in such a large, summer crowd).
  52. 52. As Russia became more exposedto the West, the new Russian youthsaw no need to be as obnoxious asthe stilyagi.
  53. 53. h ed stil ya giAnd the ol der, establis .sim pl y grew up
  54. 54. he .. from t st il ya gi. bcultu re The ussian su g, w s ere a R re in slan 0 ica n cultu tened to on 40s-6 raced Amer h the y lis b ic em d music, wh s. rreste d an te es a dress X- ra y pla nd sometim disg arded acized a str were oAmerican te eangers... were a eco nomic forceby older gen , feared erations drove th e worlds poculture. Wh a pular t the y wanteHoll ywood g d, ave and exp orted.
  55. 55. Th anks! Questions? Comments? Find me at: insearchofrussia.wordpress.com
  56. 56. Works CitedBall, A. M. (2003). Imagining America: Influence and Images in Twentieth-Century Russia. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.Dostenko, A. (2005). Chuvaki na Khatakh. Retrieved March 05, 2012, from Rodina: http://www.istrodina.com/rodina_articul.php3?id=1618&n=86Doyle, J. (2008, March 18). The Sinatra Riots, 1942-1944. Retrieved May 1, 2012, from PopHistoryDig.com: http://www.pophistorydig.com/?p=138Drake, T. D. (2008, June 15). The Jazz-Rock Counterculture is Born. Retrieved May 2, 2012, from The Historical Political Development of Soviet Rock Music: http://web.archive.org/web/20080615011159/http://www.powerhat.com/tus ovka/tus.ch1.html#howyoung-recordsFursenko, A., & Naftali, T. (2006). Khrushchevs Cold War: The Inside Story of an American Adversary. New York: Norton.Hosking, G. (2001). Russia and the Russians: A History. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Khrushchev, N. (2006). Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev. (S. Khrushchev, Ed.) University Park: Penn State University Press.Lotman, I. M., & Upenskii, B. (1984). THe Role of Dual Models in the Dynamics of Russian Culture (up to the end of the 18th century). In I. M. Lotman, B. Upenskii, A. Shukman, & M. S. Contributions (Eds.), The Semiotics of Russian Culture (p. 5). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan: Department of Slavic Studies.Todorovsky, V. (Director). (2008). Hipsters [Motion Picture].Montefoire, S. S. (2005). Stalin: the Court of the Red Tsar. New York: Random House.Panteleyev, A. (1984). Works in Four Volumes. Retrieved May 2, 2012, from The Kiev City Library: http://lib.misto.kiev.ua/RUSSLIT/PANTELEEW/statii.txtPowers, R. (2010). The Life of a 1950s Teenager. Retrieved May 2, 2012, from Brief Histories of Social Dance: http://socialdance.stanford.edu/syllabi/teen_dances.htmRojansky, M. (Performer). (2012). Overcoming Cold War Stereotypes. Washington, DC, United States of American.
  57. 57. Russia Today. (2007, July 28). Moscow markst 50 years since youth festival. Retrieved May 3, 2012, from RussiaToday: http://rt.com/news/moscow-marks-50-years-since- youth-festival/Savage, J. (2007). Teenage: The Prehistory of Youth Cultre (1875-1945). New York: Penguin.Shmoop Editorial Team. (2008, November 11). Society in the 1950s. Retrieved May 2, 2012, from Shmoop.com: http://www.shmoop.com/1950s/society.htmlSlany, W. Z. (Ed.). (1955, August 15). Dulles to Adenauer. Foriegn Relations of the United States 1955-1957: Austrian State Treaty; Summit and Foreign Ministries Meetings, V. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.Troitsky, A. (1987). Back in the USSR: The True Story of Rock in Russia. London: Omnibus Press.