Newly uncovered artwork and artifacts shed light on the underground hippies of the Soviet Union.
“Hippie Peace Ship.” Azazello (1992). Image via the Wende Museum, used with permission.
For some, the images of Soviet countries elicit the grays of brutalist concrete architecture and the reds of state-sponsored propaganda posters. But a new collection of artwork from Cold War countries showcases a new, colorful palette that reveals a seldom discussed population: Soviet hippies.
During the Cold War, Hungary was caught between two worlds, they were experiencing state-sponsored censorship, but they were also gleaning cultural influences by the far-out art of the West. Hungary became part of the Soviet Union in 1948, but after an uprising against the Soviets in 1956, the government slightly loosened their grip on artistic censorship. While the country was surrounded by Communist countries, their border with Austria offered a connection with the counter-cultural revolutions happening in the rest of Europe. Their artwork reflected this relatively liberal mindset; as their country was institutionally connected to the Soviet Empire, Hungarian artists created works that were whimsical and sometimes subversive.
These Hungarians became part of an undercover network of hippie Soviets, who were secretly gaining access to Western rock music and the aesthetic styles accompanied the culture. While Communism encouraged conformity, Soviet hippies reflected the global counter-culture movements; they existed as a kind of paradox within their own countries. They faced persecution for their commitment to free thought and expression, but stillpersevered until the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
A pair ofexhibitions by The Getty Research Institute and the Wende Museum of the Cold War – “Promote, Tolerate, Ban: Art and Culture in Cold War Hungary” and “Soviet Flower Power” – showcases some of psychedelic work of the Soviet Hippies, along with never-before seen ephemera from personal collections of the time.
Below, check out some of their eye-catching designs below with captions by Joes Segal, chief curator at the Wende Museum.
(Left) A cardboard-mounted plastic-covered image of two hippies in blue jeans with various rock music and political stickers on the sides, referencing, among other things, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and the Polish underground workers’ union. “Solidarity” (1982). (Right) Underground photograph in honor of John Lennon’s birthday (1977). Images via the Wende Museum, used with permission.
Road sign to Viitna, Estonia, decorated with the peace sign (1977). Image via the Wende Museum, used with permission.
A hippie caricature on the cover of the journal Chayan. Kazan. (1972). Image via the Wende Museum, used with permission.
Moscow hippie apartment interior with a wall-sized picture of a naked woman with extended cardboard arm (1975). Image via the Wende Museum, used with permission.
A group of hippies draping their bodies in the ground in the shape of the peace sign. Lviv (1980). Image via the Wende Museum, used with permission.
(Left) “Make Hair Everywhere.” Azazello (late 1970s or 1980s). (Right) Profile bust-length painting of a man with long hair wearing a headband, with a cut-out image of John Lennon in the upper-left corner. Anonymous (1978). Images via the Wende Museum, used with permission.
”Get in on my Cloud.” Azazello (late 1970s or 1980s). Image via the Wende Museum, used with permission.