Following the hard economic times of the early 1980’s, a new class of citizen was born. They are called the ‘Gopnik.’ It is a derogatory Russian slang word for male and female Russian youth around the age of 25, normally stemming from the lower classes of Soviet society. In America, they would be considered rednecks or white trash. They were created out of the economic turbulence caused by Gorbachev’s reforms. Initially, the reforms brought mass immigration of young people into the cities, which swelled the population. These people moved into the run-down cheap apartment housing that was built during Khrushchev’s time in power. However; Gorbachev’s new system bore the characteristics of neither central planning nor a market economy. Instead, the Soviet economy went from stagnation to deterioration. At the end of 1991, when theSoviet Union officially dissolved, the national economy was in a virtual tailspin. Gopniks are very nationalistic, aggressive, and even at times violent. They are normally uneducated individuals who have spent some amount of time in the prison system, hence why they squat. Squatting was used to keep the prisoners off the cold ground. They are petty criminals that are known to pickpocket and steal from those who pass by. Being associated with low-level crime, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were the kidnapping their bosses or random pedestrians just to earn a buck. They often saw squatting in archways, parks, or at trolleybus stops, smoking cigarettes. Gopniks are known for wearing their classic Adidas tracksuit. The tracksuit goes back to the 1980 Olympics held in Moscow. As Adidas was the soviet’s uniform maker and became a national sensation. Those were the same Olympics the U.S boycotted. Gopniks are stereotypically drinking light or cheap beer, vodka and eating sunflower seeds which server as a beer snack. They became one of the many youth movements created by those turbulent times, they were just a group of young people who saw that their futures were dark and grim, so they chose to do nothing and just accept their situation. Gopniks in my opinion, they are the epitome of Russian culture in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. They wore the uniform of the Russian Olympic team, they drank the Soviets favorite drink, Vodka, they hated work and were poor as a result of that and failing economy. They had a strong sense of friendship and community as they often squatted together.
(Some images of a standard Slavic Gopnik)
Vladimir Mezhenkov and Eva Skelley, eds., Perestroika in action: a collection of press articles and interviews. Moscow: Progress, 1988.
Yegorov, Oleg. Criminals or just misunderstood: Who are Russia’s ‘gopniks‘?, 2016, Russian Beyond. https://www.rbth.com/politics_and_society/2016/03/29/criminals-or-just-misunderstood-who-are-russias-gopniks_580121. Accessed 28 April 2018.
von Geldern, James. “Turbulent Youth.” Soviet history, http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1985-2/1985-turbulent-youth/. Accessed 28 April 2018