Gopnik’s Galore

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)

 

Work Cited:

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

11 thoughts on “Gopnik’s Galore

  1. Great post! I love reading about all the social movements that emerged during this time period, and you did a great job talking about this particularly interesting group. I like how at the end, you talked about this group being quintessentially Russian, from their outfits to choice of drink. How did the Soviet government respond to this group and the unrest they created in society?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s always interesting how different classes of people still tend to crop up in a communist society where there isn’t supposed to be any classes. And how in the case of these Gopniks and most other poorer classes the people around them don’t find issue with the economy, it’s always the poorer classes fault. Other people are succeeding still, it must be something wrong that the Gopniks are doing

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like that you made a connection between this group and the “white trash” stereotype in America. It’s interesting to me how, internationally, groups in lower socioeconomic classes are seen as trashy or inherently annoying in nature.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. bmester

    Interesting topic and I particularly enjoyed the pictures illustrating the squatting. One question I had was surrounding the groupings of the Gopniks. You mention petty crime, but do you think they ever formed gangs or anything bigger than just the small crimes?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. awpeake12

    Really interesting post, especially since I have never heard of Gopniks before. I like how you linked the movement to the Soviet economy of the late 80’s which you said “went from stagnation to deterioration.” I think that these kind of cultural movements are a lot more likely when there is less economic opportunity.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is really interesting to me because youth consistently plays a strong role in the redefining of a country or change in social standards. While the prior youth-revolutions are consistently discussed, I’ve never heard of the gopniks before. It’s a really interesting subject, especially because they emerge in the era of a dying Soviet Union. Great post!

    Like

  7. Putting this post into perspective by comparing the Gopnik’s to White trash or Rednecks is a good way to make this post more interesting, especially because its how you introduce the post. It acted as an attention grabber for me which made me want to read through the post to see how these characters came into play in Soviet culture. Good post!

    Like

  8. Nick Schuff

    It is interesting to read about how a small class of people with their own culture fit in to the wider scheme of things. You mention their nationalism, but don’t say much else about any political motivations. Are they driven by politics in any way and how does their nationalism manifest itself? I would imagine they like Putin a lot!

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