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The Hipster Subculture in Soviet Union

By the late 1940s a youth subculture appeared in Soviet Union and rapidly spread in major Soviet cities. People who took part of this movement were called “Стиляги” (hipsters) and had as a main reference американский образ жизни (the American way of life).

They would show нарочитая аполитичность (a deliberate indifference to politics), определённый цинизм в суждениях (a certain cynicism in their judgments) and отрицательное отношение к некоторым нормам советской морали (a negative attitude to certain norms of Soviet morality). “Стиляги” would wear bright clothes, use a particular slang and show a great interest in music and dance from abroad.

The reasons of the hipster subculture

This subculture appeared as a kind of spontaneous protest against the behavior of the Soviet society, the uniformity of the dressing code and music. Стиляги have long (until the mid 1960s) been considered by the Soviet press and the official moralistic rhetoric as young people following the fashion and with immoral lifestyle.

The international contacts increased a lot during and after WWII, giving the opportunity to many diplomatic workers and their family to discover other ways of life associating with success and prosperity. Coming back to Russia, these family had less respect for the Soviet ideology, and of course, the young generation was the best to promote this different way of life. They had brought back from the Western Europe a large quantity of одежды (clothes), обуви (footwear), украшений (ornaments), модные журналы (fashion magazines) and music (mostly jazz and rock-and-roll).

The emergence of the term "hipster"

The emergence of the term refers to the end of the 1940s. Существует мнение что термин “стиляги” пришёл из языка джазистов (it is believed that the term "hipster" came from the language of jazz musicians). “Стилять” (style) is used when jazz artists play in another style, hence the term “стилягу дует” (the hipster blows) means a saxophonist who plays in a borrowed style. And naturally, the term “стиляга” soon designed the artist himself.

This term appeared for the first time on March 10, 1949 in the magazine “Crocodile” (№ 7) in the feuilleton of D. G. Belyaev “Стиляги”, under the heading “Типы, уходящие в прошлое” (types, coming from the past). The author describes нелепо разодетый “на иностранный манер” (a ridiculously dressed up “with foreign manners”) young man, тщеславный (vain), невежественный (ignorant), глуповатый (foolish) who is proud of his colorful attire and skills for foreign dances. But all this only cause laughter and pity among the other students.

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The film

In 2008, Valery Todorovsky directed the film “Стиляги” who won several awards in Russia and abroad.

It is the story of Mels, a member of Komsolom who helps break a hipsters party. But he falls in love with one of the hipster, is intrigued by their colourful dresses and the music they listen to and takes the decision to join their world.

I'm sorry but I couldn't find the film with English subtitles. I hope you will enjoy it in Russian.

By the late 1940s a youth subculture appeared in Soviet Union and rapidly spread in major Soviet cities. People who took part of this movement were called hipsters…