The disintegration of the USSR in 1991 ushered in a decade of extraordinary change and turbulence. The Russian 90s saw the rise of oligarchs and gangsters, an attempted military coup and a financial crisis. But they were also a time of pioneering youth culture: of freedom and opportunity, fun and excess. This special report sets out to recapture the spirit of those wild, lost years
The Russian 90s began in 1991, when all of a sudden, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. The complete collapse of a system and its ideals created a vacuum that was filled by an avalanche of the new: new things to buy and discover, new music, TV, sexuality and identity. For youth culture, it was a decade for rebels, visionaries and pre-digital innovators: the journey was risky but freedom tasted sweet.
In this project we want to recapture something of the 90s spirit. Influential music critic Artemy Troitsky remembers the drugs, sex and excess of these hazy, chaotic years; we pick out some of the era’s defining trends, from fake Adidas trainers to pagers to Bounty bars; and revisit the outrageous pop hits which used to blow away school discos. Through the lens of Alessandro Albert and Paolo Verzone, we look at what Muscovites were wearing in 2001: just after the 90s, but still infused with their style. We also celebrate OM and Ptyuch, the Russian answers to Dazed & Confused and The Face, featuring the first-ever Russian fashion shoots, crazy layouts and daring editorials. Igor Shulinsky, editor of Ptyuch, recalls the first Moscow nightclubs and the blast of creative energy that was unleashed after decades of oppression, loud and unstoppable.
Sandwiched between the Soviet period and the rise of conservatism in the Noughties, the 90s were a special time, dangerous but fun, ruthless but free. We take a ride back in search of this creative freedom.
Text: Anastasiia Fedorova
Curator of the project: Lesya Myata