Life in the "hairy underground": The lost history of Soviet hippies

“In the west, nobody was arrested simply for having long hair or wearing strange clothes,” Toomistu explains. The USSR, by contrast, wanted complete control of its citizens’ lives: how people worked, dressed, or even danced. Anyone who rejected the Homo sovieticus model could be in “big trouble”, including having their hair forcibly cut.

The Soviet hippy movement emerged in Moscow and Leningrad around 1966 and 1967, in the early years of Leonid Brezhnev’s rule. The first red hippies were the sons or daughters of the privileged Soviet nomenklatura – well-behaved kids from elite families. They had access to music from the capitalist world and to jeans. By the early 70s, the movement had grown sufficiently big and unruly to alarm the authorities – though it probably only ever numbered a few thousand, Toomistu says. The secret police began tailing the long-haired to school. In June 1971, the hippies were given permission to demonstrate against the Vietnam war outside the US embassy in Moscow.

This was a trap. The KGB rounded up and arrested demonstrators, with the goal of wiping out hippy culture. Some demonstrators were sent to psychiatric facilities and injected with insulin; others dispatched to the army and camps near the Chinese border. The film re-creates this grim clampdown and uses surveillance photos found in KGB archives in Lithuania.