«We don’t know where we are going, but we know exactly what we are running away from,» a female voice-over says over grainy coloured images of a group of disheveled young people walking across an indistinct landscape in the opening shots of Terje Toomistu’s timely documentary Soviet Hippies.
At a time of increasing political polarisation between Russia, Europe, and the West, the notion of Russians as some kind of different species, warlike, aggressive, corrupt, and separate, is popular in the media. What many with no direct experience of Russia themselves fail to understand is the extent to which dissidence – with a small «d» – remains widespread in Russia to this day and that is often exemplified in youth musical and fashion sub-groups.
The idea that there were hippies in the Soviet Union may seem bizarre, but Russia is a big country, with a big soul and its tolerance for embracing different approaches to life is perhaps one of its most enduring well-kept secrets. Not every Russian today is either an Orthodox-observing church-goer or a card-carrying member of Putin-loyalist party United Russia, just as not every Soviet citizen was a
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