They Are Not Their Own Generation

America in the 1960s represented an entirely different form of the generation gap than the gap seen in Soviet culture in the late 60s. American youth was facing recreational drug use, the infiltration of sex into mainstream culture, and anti-war protests. These ideals did not span across all generations, but caused a rift between the older and younger generations. Soviet society did not face the dramatic differences found in America, or even other countries during the late 1960s. Instead, the radical generation gap discussed in America wasn’t rampant in the Soviet Union (Seventeen Moments). Drugs, sex, and anti-war and anti-government protests did not plague Soviet culture at this time.

Life for the youth of the Soviet Union was significantly improved from that of the generation before them. The youth of the 1960s was “the first…to

L. S. Samoilov: Which One Should We Push? (1965)

L. S. Samoilov: Which One Should We Push? (1965)

command the leisure and disposable income to make questions of style paramount” (Seventeen Moments). In other words,  appearance was a central issue for the generation gap as well as work ethic principles (Seventeen Moments). The youth of Russia was seen as lazy compared to the collectivized older generations that had relied on a heavy work ethic for success. In the image to the right, two youth sit on a couch pressing buttons to the left reading: mom, dad, grandma, and grandpa (Seventeen Moments Images). This reminded me of a commercial that has been on TV lately: This commercial shows an American youth calling the house phone to ask his grandmother for something rather than walking into the other room to talk to her directly. Older generations always see youth as lazier than the generation before them, but opportunity can lead

to a decreased work ethic and lack of appreciation. The idea of individuality was lost on older generations who saw the youth losing sight of specific values for superficial reasons. Youth fashion caused a disturbance, creating a widening generation gap. Laziness could be inferred, but the clear evidence of individuality in youth clothing was a constant reminder of the ever changing culture. In the image below, the caption reads: “You know how it was when we were young. We walked around starving, without clothes … So at least my daughter should dress properly!” (Seventeen Moments Images).

V. Goriaev: Memories of Old (1964) "You know how it was when we were young. We walked around starving, without clothes ... So at least my daughter should dress properly!"

V. Goriaev: Memories of Old (1964)
“You know how it was when we were young. We walked around starving, without clothes … So at least my daughter should dress properly!”

Laziness and fashion were not the only influences on the generation gap in Soviet culture. The infiltration of western culture and rock-n-roll would exacerbate the divide between young and old (Seventeen Moments). Illegally smuggling in records would be commonplace in Soviet youth culture as we discussed in class. Youth was continuously distancing its generation from those before them. According to “To Dance ‘In the Style’ is Forbidden,” the curiosity of youth leads to a motto of “I want to know everything” (To Dance ‘In the Style’ is Forbidden). Forbidding youth from activities, such as a certain dance style would result in intensified rejection of rules. Like any teenagers, the more authority says you cannot do something the more you want to do it.

The Soviet culture was morphing as youth distanced themselves from their elders, just as the government was faced with growing discourse. Under Khrushchev, the people were asked to vocalize discontent and opinions, a change that would lead to an end in his leadership. In “On the Evils of Individuality,” the importance of communism was threatened by individuality as the document states,  “[w]e are living at a time when each member of our society must participate actively, militantly and with initiative in the building of communism, rather than passively or contemplatively” (Evils of Individuality). The document exposes the necessity for all citizens to actively participate in building communism for the better of the country. To the extreme, the document states, “our society has declared a decisive and merciless war on every idler, parasite and other morally depraved person who is striving in one way or another to avoid socially useful labor and to enjoy the benefits of society without giving society anything in exchange” (Evils of Individuality). The document lays out ideas and roles of school and teachers in developing a generation to build communism rather than threaten its development.