Jon Platt is an assistant professor in the Slavic Languages and Literature Department at the University of Pittsburgh where he specializes in Pushkin, literary theory, Soviet culture, and Russian contemporary art and poetry. He recently published Greetings, Pushkin!: Stalinist Cultural Politics and the Russian National Bard (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016).
Sebadoh, “Rebound,” 4 Song CD, 1994.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
I’ve read a lot of horrific stories about Russia over the years. Tales about hazing in the military, torture, assassinations, wanton thievery, corruption, not to mention, the often tragic comedy found on the now sadly defunct Mosnews. But never have I read an article so disturbing, so utterly chilling to the bones as when I read “Russia’s Mullet Revolution” in the eXile.
That’s right. Mullets. The shlong. The ape-drape. Business in the font, party in the back. The Tennessee top hat. The Billy Ray Cirus. The Kentucky Waterfall. The Ben Franklin. They are simply the fashion scourge of the earth.
Alas, mullets are alive and well in Russia, and unlike in the States, they are sported, sprayed, combed and flayed without any irony whatsoever. As Yasha Levine writes,
The mullet continues to thrive in every nook and corner of the Third Rome, especially in the capital. It stares out at you from pirate DVD kiosk windows and the passenger seats of Shawarma Shuttles. You see them everywhere: ordering oysters in high class restaurants, riding the metro, loitering around the Manezh, and, yes, enjoying the heated embrace of Russian babes.
The Russian mullet is not like the Western mullet. It lacks irony and it is here to stay. Infecting cities, towns, and villages alike, the Russian mullet signifies style and sophistication. It’s mutated into several sub-species, depending on your social class.
Sub-species depending on your social class!? While there are many, many mullet categories (best collected on the site Mullets Galore), American mullets, whether they be the Femullet, the Mullatino, the Frolet, or the Classic Mullet, are the providence of the American working class. Mulleteers are the lone symbol of class unity among racial diversity. In Russia, the mullet is rather a vehicle for perpetuating and concretizing class hierarchy. The style of mullet a Russian sports is a symbol to one’s social, economic, and cultural difference.
According to Levine, the Russian mullet’s origins date to Russia’s “rock renaissance” of the early 1980s. But rock alone could not sustain the mullet’s cultural force and it died with the Soviet Union. But now it seems that it is making a comeback.
The 21st century mullet got its start in Eurofag techno culture. According to Julia Mashnich, editor of the Russian version of Numero magazine, a French high fashion glossy, mullets made a worldwide comeback around 2001, at a time when 80s retro was becoming ironically cool. That trend didn’t last long.
. . .
Except in Russia. By 2004, even as the cheesiest eurofags in Italy and England reshaped their mullets, here the mullet-craze was just warming up.
Its proliferation across the Russian youth body politic seems to be the result of Russopop star and Eurovision 2006 runner up, Dima Bilan. If there ever was an evil so vile, I have yet to witness it. In fact, there seems to be an intimate connection between Bilan’s success and the growth of his mullet. Perhaps he sold his soul (and fashion sense) at the crossroads? I dare say this sounds like a job for a koldun. Where’ s my damn Komsomol’skaya pravda?
Bilan’s mullet evolved a long way from the classic style, growing in proportion to his success. The bigger he got, the more elaborate his mullet. By the time he got to Eurovision 2006, his “bilan” was more mullet than even Billy Ray Cyrus’ mullet: a big jelled peacock fin on top, techno-short on the sides, and an all-night hoedown in back. After the Eurovision contest, Bilan’s “bilan” was plastered on every afisha and billboard across Russia, and beamed to millions of TVs. The dyevs loved it. And the dudes lined up to get cut just like their new favorite pop star.
Thus the dimabilan was born. Perhaps to an entire nation’s fashion peril.Post Views: 271
By Sean — 11 months ago
Guest: Judith Beyer on The Force of Custom: Law and the Ordering of Everyday Life in Kyrgyzstan.
By Sean — 10 years ago
Sometimes you have to feel sorry for the Russian liberal opposition. Not only do they seem to be out of touch with the sentiments of the population, or seem to offer any alternative to Putinism, they also appear prone to something I call historical transfiguration.
Take for example, what “parallels” Grigory Yavlinsky of Yabloko, Leonid Gozman of SPS, and Garry Kasparov of Other Russia see between the Russia of 1917 and Russia of 2007. Yavlinsky said that some of those parallels are “the dominance of corruption and bureaucracy, the absence of inner mechanisms for modernization, the absence of economic and political competition, the absence of a mechanism for the government’s renewal, and the absence of the chance to form a responsible and efficient opposition.” Gozman thinks that like in 1917, today’s rulers have an “absolute feeling of stability, and the tsar also had it. In addition, the opposition is being ousted toward revolution, and the tsar did not want to discuss anything as well. He had his own truth, and this was quite enough for him.” And never to be outdone, Kasparov claims that the “analogies with 1916-1917 are quite explicit.” “The Objective tensions are rising in society,” he explained, “and this is exactly what serves as the main engine of revolutionary processes. For instance, a gap between the rich and the poor has reached an unimaginable size.”
I don’t know what history books these three are reading. Because they leave out one crucial factor: World War I. The war was the number one issue in 1917. All of the instabilities that the above three speak of were exacerbated by it. Russia’s failure at the front is what made the difference between revolution and protest. The Revolution would have gone nowhere without soldiers willingly, and often happily, turning their guns on their officers. Take for example these Okhrana reports from 26 February 1917:
“In the vicinity of the Church of Christ the Saviour, the 4th company met a mounted patrol of 10 policemen; the soldiers abused the policemen, calling them “pharaohs,” and firing several volleys at them, killing one police man and one horse, and wounding one policeman and one horse. Then the soldiers returned to the barracks, where they staged a mutiny. Colonel Eksten came to put it down and was wounded by one of the soldiers; his hand was cut off.”
That same day, Okhrana agents also reported:
“As the military unites did not oppose the crowds, and in certain cases even took measures tending to paralyze the initiative of police officials, as for two days the mobs wandered unhindered about the streets, and as the revolutionary circles advanced slogans: “Down with the war” and “Down with the Government”–the people became convinced that the revolution had started, that success was on the side of the mobs, that the Government was powerless to suppress the movement because the military units were on the side of the latter, that a decisive victory was in sight because in the very near future the military units would opening join the revolutionary forces.”
It was actions like these, not just in Petrograd, but also at the front which made the Russia Revolution, as one scholar argued, essentially a mass soldiers’ revolt.
Moreover, it is no secret that the key to the Bolshevik’s taking power in November 1917 stemmed from the fact that they controlled almost the entire Petrograd garrison and had solid support among soldiers at the front. This why 66.9% of soldiers at the Western front cast their Constituent Assembly votes for the Bolsheviks.
Russian oppositionists might remember these historical facts before they try to draw “parallels” between Russian in 1917 and Russia now. After all, believing in their own analysis of 1917 might end them up on the wrong side of the gun.Post Views: 329