In This Review

Flowers Through Concrete: Explorations in Soviet Hippieland
Flowers Through Concrete: Explorations in Soviet Hippieland
By Juliane Fürst
Oxford University Press, 2021, 496 pp

In the late 1960s, a countercultural hippie movement began to emerge in the Soviet Union. Early Soviet hippies were inspired by the aesthetics of their Western counterparts, as well as their message of peace, love, and rock-and-roll. Within a few years, a network of hippies had evolved across the country. The communist state consistently eradicated independent social organization, and the hippies were no exception: the police and operatives of the Komsomol, a communist youth organization, persecuted them. The authorities often confined hippies to psychiatric hospitals. Fürst’s exhaustive history is based on 135 interviews with surviving hippies, as well as memoirs and personal archives. It is filled with colorful characters; documents their travels, gatherings, and spiritual quests; and boasts an amazing collection of photos. The book also includes tragic stories of drug abuse and dying young. Soviet hippies may have shared the antimaterialistic creed of Western hippies and rejected Soviet norms and values, but they were just as engaged as their “normal” Soviet contemporaries in procuring the coveted and expensive Western items that were missing in the Soviet economy (in their case, primarily blue jeans and music records). Fürst emphasizes that despite the hippies’ stubborn otherness, they were part of an increasingly complex late socialist society in which a broad range of “others” lived side by side with people deemed “normal.”