Soviet Hippies and Daniil Andreev’s Legacy

by Irina Gordeeva

Over the last decade numerous memoirs of the cultural underground dedicated to late Soviet times were published. Nevertheless, many sources, including those on the history of the so-called “religious revival” of the 1970s and early 1980s, remain unpublished, unknown to researchers and the general public.

While exploring the history of alternative social movements of late Soviet times, I find many such texts. The most interesting of them were created by participants of the youth counterculture which at that time was also characterized by spiritual quests, including mystical ones.

Valery Sokolov, Pit Podolsky (Demidov) and Andrey Oleynikov (Alkhimik) in Moscow, 1981 © Andrey Oleynikov

“Without finding out if God exists, we didn’t sit down for lunch back then,” recalls Maria Remizova, a hippie movement participant. She says: “Curiously enough absolutely everyone around us thought we were lazy and fools (…) Meanwhile, I’ve never ever met people of such versatile knowledge and interest in abstract subjects. It’s a lie that counterculture is opposed to culture. No way! Only against its rotten, formalized, having lost its creative energy (or lacking it from the very beginning) aspect – its worst part. Counterculture absorbed all the best, lively and creative, amputating the festering fiber. Counterculture was cleaning the husks accumulated over the centuries to reach the core of truth and grab it with bare hands – not afraid of getting burned, because fire does not burn the one who burns himself” (Mata Hari 2008, 81; 104).

Today, I would like to introduce to the readers of the blog one interesting story, which became known to me from unpublished memoirs of former Soviet hippie Andrey Oleynikov (born in 1958). In the memoirs of Daniil Andreev’s widow Alla Aleksandrovna Andreeva, “Floating to the Heavenly Kremlin”, there is an episode in which she tells how in the gloomy 1970s she suddenly found young friends, for whom the creative legacy of Daniil Andreev meant a lot:

“Here in Russia, as I said before, The Rose of the World (Roza Mira) began to circulate in distorted, sometimes shortened, sometimes edited, and sometimes even completed versions among people who were interested in it. Sometimes they would find out my phone number and call me… I would answer that I didn’t know anything about this book and I didn’t understand what they were talking about. I couldn’t have answered differently. It’s not like I knew who was calling or where from. I knew that searches were going on in Moscow and during a number of searches The Rose of the World was taken to Lubyanka with everything else that was confiscated. One stray word of mine, and I’d have caused a shmon [1] at my place, which would have meant the end of everything. That’s the reason I remained completely silent (…)

Since ’78, a new chapter in my life has begun. Gradually, many young people gathered around me. So, one day there appeared Alkhimik and Valera, they were eighteen years old, hippies with long hair, hung with beads. Some scraps of The Rose of the World photocopies fell into their hands. They started looking for me, and they found me.

I walked around Moscow with a hippie company. I was already at seventy, I put on a strict suit and a strict black hat, and the hippies looked the way they were supposed to. We’d walk out of the house like that, and new hippies would show up out of the backstreets and join us. We’d walk the streets and talk about anything and everything.

Andrey Oleynikov (Alkhimik) in his home laboratory in Moscow, 1982 ©Andrey Oleynikov

Alkhimik [‘the Alchemist’] is Andrey Oleynikov‘s hippie nickname.  Actually he is a perfumer – since childhood his hobby in chemistry has transformed into a rare hobby, and now he produces his own fragrances under the brand name “Myropol“. In 2008, he recorded his memories of meeting A. A. Andreeva:

”1978. November, Friday, the 17th. Mercury Pechersky [2]

My favorite weather is coming towards the second half of autumn… It’s a wonderful time for me to travel and, of course, to Piter [3] on the first place.

In the company of Lesha Felistak (Umma-humma) and Andrey (Nark) I happened to be there in the first days of November 1978 (…) We were lucky with a crash pad [4] – we stayed at Volodya Toshka’s, who lived somewhere near Liteyny Avenue then. The owner was not at home, and we were hosted by his wife (I believe her name was Alla).

I was raving then about Daniil Andreev, and imagine my reaction when, in a conversation about this and that, it suddenly turned out that Volodya was with his friend in Moscow visiting the The Rose of the World author’s widow (…) I began questioning, but for a more detailed answer I had to wait until the evening when Volodya came.

However, he could not say the most important thing – address and phone number. His friend knew them, and for some reason we failed to get in touch with him. Nevertheless, Toshka described to me in detail the neighborhood where Alla Aleksandrovna Andreeva lives, and I easily recognized the Uspensky Vrazhek with the Church of the Resurrection and Bryusov Lane with a newly built house there.

Alla Andreeva and Andrey Oleynikov on his dacha in Stepanovskoe (Krasnogorsk region), summer 1986 or 1987 ©Andrey Oleynikov

There I used to take the usual route from the Prospekt Marksa [5] metro station (Okhotny Riad) to Suvorovsky (Nikitsky) Boulevard to the cafe “Aromat” – our famous hangout headquarters. And strange thing: every time, passing on the Bryusov, I was halting my attention on the new house, driven by an unconscious sense of attraction (…)

Right off the train, as soon as I got home, I called Misha Mikhalchuk, my buddy from 127 school, who by that time was also passionate about The Rose of the World, and we agreed to go looking for Daniil Andreev’s widow the very next day.

On Friday the 17th, we met on Tverskaya, feeling in a special, inspired mood of a strong anticipation of wonderful events. We were carried away as they say. Approaching the place, we decided to consciously act at random and, without thinking anything through, entered one of the three doorways of the house, which turned out to be a residential cooperative of MAU [6]. Having placed a small icon of the Savior on the heating radiator, we quickly read an initial prayer and entered the elevator. I quickly turned away from the panel with the buttons and pressed the first one I found (…) We rang, and the door opened.

“Ah, guys, come in!” said a charming dark-haired girl in her twenties standing on the doorstep. “Would you like some tea?” she continued at ease, inviting us into the kitchen. And, as I entered, I immediately saw in the red corner, under the icons, a large gingerbread with the image of an angel in blue glaze, one of those so skilfully baked by Volodya Rappoport from Piter – a friend of Axel and Tohska!

Alla Andreeva visiting Oleynikov on his dacha in Stepanovskoe, summer 1986 or 1987 ©Andrey Oleynikov

Already at the second cup of tea, having overcome the confusion, we finally told about the purpose of our spontaneous visit. “Ah, Alla Alexandrovna is a good friend of mine!” said Lena. “Tomorrow she arrives from Piter. Come by at 7:00 and I’ll introduce you”.

The next day, at half past six, I was already standing at the entrance romantically electrified. Soon Misha arrived, revealing signs of a similar condition, and we headed to Lena. She led us through a long corridor, which, as it turned out, connects all the staircases of the prestigious “house of artists” on the top floor, and where there are numerous doors to their workshops.

When we reached the third staircase, we went down to the seventh floor to apartment 59. To tell the truth, during this trip I imagined meeting some deaf, barely shuffling old lady, but I was surprised when instead of an “old lady” we were met by a slender, extraordinary beautiful woman “without age”, filled with a vivid charm of her genuinely cultured ways, if I may say so, of high standard… Not in the least embarrassed by our overtly hippie look; Alla Alexandrovna friendly sat us down at the tea table (…)

As a child I often visited my grandmother’s relatives and friends – the classic “Arbat old men”, and I vividly remember the atmosphere of the houses of true old Muscovites… As soon as I sat down at the table, under the warm light of an orange lampshade, I, as if face to face, met the very spirit, so dear and close since childhood. The cherished heart door opened, and from there waves of forgotten mood rushed towards familiar vibes. They intensified and, without meeting the usual petty and everyday obstacles, began to be reflected outwardly and, coming back, gave rise to a state that seemed to have left me long ago. As in my early childhood, I felt as if time had stopped in its “horizontal” movement and rushed upwards, passing through a dazzling shining point star in the lamp shade (…)

It lasted for a few seconds, during which something extraordinary happened. I felt an inner intimacy with those who, like me now, sat at the table in the rays of this light, not only here and now, but always and everywhere where it united those who were in this circle. It seemed to me then that I saw a chain of bright destinies stretched through time, the last link of which being the hostess who welcomed us warmly to the house.

Andrey Oleynikov (Alkhimik) on a demonstration for saving the environment in the Park Kultury (Moscow), July 10, 2016 ©Andrey Oleynikov

In her look and manner nothing seemed to be peculiarly old-fashioned, while the spirit that she carried in her undoubtedly felt as such! Here one could immediately feel the strong noble infusion of countless evenings full of unforgettable meetings, heated discussions, arguments, revelations (…)

I don’t know if I should write any more about the setting of this meeting. Yes, there was a simple but exquisite tea board with green cheese pâté, a kind, relaxed conversation and, of course, a breathtaking story about Daniil. We saw a lot of photos, and to our, then very poor idea of him, added completely new, unexpected and bright features. The main thing was that not everything is far from being limited to The Rose of the World, and Daniil Leonidovich is an unknown poet of a huge scale, and Alla Alexandrovna courageously preserved his legacy in the most difficult time for such an undertaking. And no less important and dear to me is the fact that from that memorable evening until the last days of Alla Aleksandrovna’s life I was happy to see in her person one of the kindest and most loyal friends of mine.

(I can’t remember when else I was in a state like that November night.) “But please don’t shine like this,” Mishа, who was fond of parapsychology, said half-jokingly on the way back as we walked together through the dull underground passage to the subway.

Now, thirty years later, even with taking the youthful excitement into account, I can confidently speak of my experience as a kind of enlightenment. Such events are rare guests in our lives, but if we should talk about its meaning at all, then, in my opinion, it is justified exactly by the fact that they do happen…”

The extract is reprinted and translated with the author‘s permission.

Translated by Sveta Tambovtseva and Romina Heim


[1] A slang word for searches, possible equivalents – ‘ransacking, shakedown’.

[2] A venerable saint, who was glorified in Kiev-Pechersk Lavra.

[3] Piter is an informal name for St Petersburg.

[4] A word for crash pad in Russian hippie slang was borrowed English, they called such place флэт (a flat).

[5] Soviet names have been changed after the Perestroika, the new post-Soviet names, referring to the prerevolutionary ones, are given in brackets.

[6] The abbreviation MAU (Rus. МОСХ) stands for the Moscow Artists Union.

References

{Mata Hari [Remizova, Maria]}. Мата Хари [Ремизова, Мария]. Пудинг из промокашки: Хиппи как они есть. Москва: Форум, 2008.


This blogpost in Russian

Cite this article as: Irina Gordeeva, “Soviet Hippies and Daniil Andreev’s Legacy”, in New Age in Russia, 15/04/2020, https://newageru.hypotheses.org/4316


You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search