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Salient: Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Vol. 24, No. 8. 1961.


"How many villages and towns are there in which young people do not know how to relieve the boredom? Where to go? How to spend one's spare time? How many people ask themselves this question every night . . . Everything has become stale; there is nothing interesting to do."

Where does this come from? An American discussion of juvenile delinquency, or a New Zealand newspaper wondering what went wrong at the Blossom Festival? No. It is taken from Komsomolskaya Pravda, the magazine of the Russian Communist Party's Youth Movement, and the date is January, 1959.

Boredom affects Russian youth in much the same way as any other country's. The difference lies in the sterner government attitude to the usual symptoms of rebellion. The " stilyagi," or Teddy Boys, are treated to constant ridicule and abuse in the Soviet Press, and in the last few years there have been several Komsomol publications telling Russian youth how it should dress itself. However, there are signs that "stilyagi" fashions have sparked off a move to manufacture smarter and better-tailored women's clothes.

The "stilyagi's" devotion to rock 'n' roll and other "decadent" music has, however, met with no such encouragement from above. Apparently Western jazz records rank with clothing and currency as favourites in Russia's thriving Black Market, and the fans go to extraordinary lengths to get tape recordings of jazz recitals picked up over Western radio stations. Bohemianism is only one, relatively harmless way of escape. Much more disturbing is the growth of juvenile alcoholism, and the resultant crime-wave, which cut down the effectiveness of youthful workers as well as creating social unrest. The government tends to hammer away at these evils without inquiring into their causes. To combat them it has tried to encourage participation in sport and in the Dosaaf, a para-military body with the rather ominous full title of Voluntary Organisation to Co-operate with the Army, Navy and Air Force. This outfit teaches its members to shoot, drive cars and motor-cycles, fly planes and sail boats. This may satisfy the outdoor types, but for others Bohemianism is often the only escape from drabness.