The Last Defense of Soviet Culture
In the closing years of the Soviet Union the popular mass culture was under-attack. The years of togetherness and and the one-size fits all culture was coming to a close. But like all habits this one would die hard. With such big changes it is normal for there to be resistance and in this case the boys of Liubertsy were this resistance. The boys of a poor worker suburb of Moscow soon found themselves in a position were it was there job to defend Soviet culture. In this rapidly shifting world were western popular culture was bearing down on Moscow, maybe these young men thought they could beat the change back. However in this case literally. Driven on by Soviet ideals and a hate for foreign “alien” ideals and lifestyles, these workers’ sons formed clans in their small apartment buildings and built up their bodies for cultural warfare.
Liubers posing for a picture in a homemade basement gym
These cultural warriors strangely built themselves up like a western idol: Sylvester Stallone. Although they adamantly opposed anything western they idolized a western movie star for his strength and fight for whats right. These young mean would build there bodies to not only look a certain way but ultimately for cultural combat. These young men would travel to the heart of Moscow and seek out fringe groups like bikers, metal fans, rockers, and those who idolized the west and beat them up. There battle for Soviet culture took place in the union’s heart and maybe the Liubers thought this was the place to save it but in reality they were likely beating the sons of high government officials.
Liubers Posing for a photo, man on the right wearing Rambo Shirt and his clan’s plaid pattern.
Although this movement never was successful in driving out western influences, it serves as a reminder that not all wanted communism to end. The Liubers serve as an example to resistance to cultural change in the 80’s. Although their methods were crude and their beliefs confusing at times the Liubers were an embodiment of the civil strife Russia experienced in the last days of the Soviet Union.
December 7, 2015 @ 2:55 pm
It’s funny that out of all the actors, these kids chose Sylvester Stallone, who was often fighting Russians and other assorted communist Cold War enemies in his movies. You never really hear about those that were opposed to the culture shift and liberalization of the 80s and 90s so this is a really cool topic to learn about. Thank you for sharing!
John Mark Mastakas
December 7, 2015 @ 6:01 pm
Great post! Very interesting that they took to body building to be more like Sylvester Stalone and idolized a Western movie star even though they despised all Western related things. Their resistance to change in the 80s is also particularly interesting and I didn’t know that there were still Russians who wanted communism.
December 7, 2015 @ 9:20 pm
I found it interesting how you point out that they mainly just tormented the sons of high ranking government officials. This, no doubt, helps lend credence to your point that their beliefs were confusing. They were literally beating up the heirs of the people who upheld the society they idealized. This is and interesting post that sheds light on the shifting of an era within the USSR.
December 7, 2015 @ 11:30 pm
As with Parker’s discussion of the Night Wolves (https://russianculturalhistory.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/russias-biker-problem-and-the-final-days-of-the-soviet-union/comment-page-1/#comment-42 ) there’s a lot of irony and cross-cultural influence at work here. It is strange to realize that the Liubertsy vented their frustrations on the privileged youth in the name of “cultural purity.” The dynamic is not unlike some of the stranger political/cultural trends we experience in the contemporary US.
December 7, 2015 @ 11:56 pm
Really loved this post and the emphasis on the fact that some did not want communism to end. I feel like as historians we have to be vigilant on what is portrayed in our media, and a common misconception is that everyone, and I mean everyone, hated being in Russia. great work!
December 8, 2015 @ 1:39 am
This is a pretty interesting thought process to think about. These young adults were fighting a purely ideological battle, yet built up their bodies as if they were literally going to be fighting those who they disagreed with. Additionally their choice of actors to idolize is also interesting as he came from the very country they were fighting against.
December 8, 2015 @ 2:06 am
Interesting post. These young men seemed more driven by a “gang-like” brotherhood and violence. However, what was their logic behind their actions, as far as what they could realistically accomplish. These men seemed to have no real plan of action except to romanticize violence.
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June 30, 2021 @ 8:35 am
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