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A Soviet youth subculture that emerged in the late 1940s and extended into the early 1960s.

The term stiliagi first appeared in the Soviet press in 1949 to provide a negative characterization of young men who pursued what they believed to be Western models of behavior, leisure, clothing, and dance styles. Stil' (style) was essential for them and the very first stiliagialmost exclusively mensported elaborate haircuts and colorful suits and ties. In the early 1950s the stiliagi clothing style became more subdued as they adopted a more "American" look and wore narrow black pants and thick-soled shoes. The stiliagi, displaying a pronounced American orientation, called themselves shtatniki (United States-niks). They listened to American jazz, smoked American cigarettes, and used American slang. In the late 1950s and early 1960s some stiliagi embraced rock culture as it began to spread in the West. Nightlife was important for the stiliagi and they regularly gathered in public and private spaces to listen to jazz and dance Western dances.

The stiliagi phenomenon is most strongly associated with the ideological relaxation and the growing material well-being in the post-Stalin period. The predominant majority of the stiliagi were students of higher educational institutions in major urban centers. They came from families of the Soviet professional, political, and managerial elite, also known as the nomenklatura. Under Stalin and later Soviet leaders, the nomenklatura received a number of privileges (e.g., access to special stores, trips abroad, better housing, financial bonuses) in exchange for political conformity. The stiliagi phenomenon reflected the growing consumerist and leisure-oriented mentality of the upper crust of Soviet society.

The stiliagi culture was widely denounced by the Soviet media. The official Komsomol campaign targeted their "parasitic" and immoral attitude toward work, lack of political involvement and loyalty, and pro-Western spirit. In individual cases, the stiliagi were forced to change their dress and hairstyles and were expelled from the Komsomol.

In the mid-1980s, parallel to glasnost and perestroika, there was a revival of the stiliagi culture. The new stiliagi included girls and adopted a dress code of black suits, white shirts, and narrow ties. They were fans of the Soviet rock 'n' roll bands "Brigada S" and "Bravo." This new generation of stiliagi was part of the growing number of neformaly (non-formal), youth groups that emerged outside of the official youth culture controlled by the Komsomol and reflected the growing crisis of cultural and political identity among Soviet youth.

See also: nomenklatura


Edele, Mark. (2002). "Strange Young Men in Stalin's Moscow: The Birth and Life of the Stiliagi, 19451953." Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 50(1):3761.

Kassof, Allen. (1965). The Soviet Youth Program: Regimentation and Rebellion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Pilkington, Hilary. (1994). Russia's Youth and Its Culture. A Nation's Constructors and Constructed. New York: Routledge.

Larissa Rudova