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Hooligans in Khrushchev's Russia

Defining, Policing, and Producing Deviance during the Thaw

Brian LaPierre

Publication Year: 2012

Swearing, drunkenness, promiscuity, playing loud music, brawling—in the Soviet Union these were not merely bad behavior, they were all forms of the crime of “hooliganism.” Defined as “rudely violating public order and expressing clear disrespect for society,” hooliganism was one of the most common and confusing crimes in the world’s first socialist state. Under its shifting, ambiguous, and elastic terms, millions of Soviet citizens were arrested and incarcerated for periods ranging from three days to five years and for everything from swearing at a wife to stabbing a complete stranger.
    Hooligans in Khrushchev's Russia offers the first comprehensive study of how Soviet police, prosecutors, judges, and ordinary citizens during the Khrushchev era (1953–64) understood, fought against, or embraced this catch-all category of criminality. Using a wide range of newly opened archival sources, it portrays the Khrushchev period—usually considered as a time of liberalizing reform and reduced repression—as an era of renewed harassment against a wide range of state-defined undesirables and as a time when policing and persecution were expanded to encompass the mundane aspects of everyday life. In an atmosphere of Cold War competition, foreign cultural penetration, and transatlantic anxiety over “rebels without a cause,” hooliganism emerged as a vital tool that post-Stalinist elites used to civilize their uncultured working class, confirm their embattled cultural ideals, and create the right-thinking and right-acting socialist society of their dreams.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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List of Tables

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p. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

This book would not have been possible without the help and support of many individuals and agencies. My research was generously supported by a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship (with funds provided by the United States Department of Education), a grant from the International...

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pp. 3-16

In 1957, Soviet police arrested an intoxicated man for attacking and stabbing a bystander twice with a knife. In 1959, another man was arrested for having sex with his wife in a “perverted manner.” Five years later, authorities detained yet another Soviet man for cutting off a cat’s tail. Despite the diversity...

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1. A Portrait of Hooliganism and the Hooligan during the Khrushchev Period

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pp. 17-58

Hooliganism had risen to high levels several times in the Stalin era. However in the mid-1950s, conviction rates for this crime rose to unprecedented post-WWII heights, making it a critical problem for the young socialist state as it sought to win the Cold War and construct communism. In tandem with...

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2. Private Matters or Public Crimes? The Emergence of Domestic Hooliganism in Soviet Russia

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pp. 59-95

An illustration in a 1956 issue of the Soviet satirical magazine Krokodil depicted young men loitering on the city streets and harassing female pedestrians. This was the stereotype of hooliganism that many Soviet citizens encountered in films and read about in novels and newspapers. This stereotypical portrait reflected...

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3. Making Hooliganism on a Mass Scale: The Campaign against Petty Hooliganism

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pp. 96-131

Khrushchev’s Thaw is often presented as a period of increased experimentation and official toleration. In many ways, this interpretation is undeniably true, especially in the cultural sphere. Khrushchev may have aimed his attack on the Stalinist cult of personality to discredit...

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4. Empowering Public Activism:The Khrushchev-Era Campaign to Mobilize Obshchestvennost’ in the Fight against Hooliganism

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pp. 132-167

In 1959, Khrushchev unveiled an ambitious new program for policing and punishing hooliganism in Soviet society. With the expansion of the comrades’ courts and the people’s auxiliary police (druzhina), the state sought to enlarge its community of activists and enlist them in the anti-crime cause...

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5. The Rise and Fall of the Soft Line on Petty Crime

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pp. 168-198

During the late 1950s, reform replaced punishment as the state’s primary response to petty crimes such as simple hooliganism. This new soft-line approach to crime recentered the Soviet system of criminal justice around the principles of humaneness (gumannost’), reform, and...

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Conclusion: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose: Hooliganism after Khrushchev

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pp. 199-207

In the summer of 1966, the Brezhnev regime unveiled a series of tough anti-crime measures. On July 23, 1966, the Communist Party Central Committee and the USSR Council of Ministers released the decree “On Measures for Strengthening the Fight against Crime.” Three days later...


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pp. 209-263


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pp. 265-274


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pp. 275-281

E-ISBN-13: 9780299287436
E-ISBN-10: 0299287432
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299287443
Print-ISBN-10: 0299287440

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 819717255
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Hooligans in Khrushchev's Russia

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Criminal justice, Administration of -- Soviet Union.
  • Hoodlums -- Government policy -- Soviet Union.
  • Deviant behavior -- Government policy -- Soviet Union.
  • Soviet Union -- History -- 1953-1985.
  • Soviet Union -- Social conditions -- 1945-1991.
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