Stilyagi and Airplanes

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stilyaga-2.jpg       mozhaisky


Xenophobia is the fear of foreigners or outside culture. In post-war Russia, Xenophobia was very prevalent. The fear of outside influence was strong. It was so bad that there was a law passed restricting the marriage to a foreigner. Xenohpobia was cultural as well. Cultural xenpohobia was characterized by the mindset of Russian superiority over western culture. Western culture was seen as posion that infected the minds of everybody who came in contact with it. Eventually, the condemnation of western culture became mandatory. Two examples of Xenophobia in literature are “Stilyaga” by D. Belyaev and an excerpt from the Great Soviete Encyclopedia on Aviation.


“Stilyaga” by Belyaev is about a bubbleheaded Russian teenager. After World War Two, there were many orphans in the Soviet Union looking for a sense of identity. The orphans along with children of the Soviet elite turned to western culture like American jazz and cinema for their identity. These people were known as “Stilyaga.”

In this piece, Stilyaga, the main character, is depicted as an overconfident bubbleheaded teenage boy with uncultural/ Western mannerisms who wore bright clothes in a variety of colors and fabrics. Stilyaga’s bright clothes and western mannerisms were described as absurd and weird by the narrator. Stilyaga’s grandiose nature, overconfidence, and lack of knowledge makes him look like a fool. For example, when talking about the dance Stilyaga made up, the narrator tells him that even Terpsichore would faint. Stilyaga responded to him saying that Terpsichore was a “chic” name and asked who she is. This evoked the sarcastic response from the narrator that Terpsichore was his wife, when Terpsichore is actually the Greek goddess of dance and chorus. Stilyaga is supposed to represent the absurdity of Western culture. His personality and characteristics depict western culture as an absurd, surface-level, unintelligent culture that Soviet culture is clearly superior to. It made Soviet parents fear the idea of Western culture turing their children into unintelligent social outcasts.


The excerpt on Aviation from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia is another good example of xenophobia. Published at the end of the Stalinist era and at the height of the Cold War, the defensive tone of this article reveals the cultural idea of everything Russian being supreme. This piece is written to accentuate the credit of Russians in the study of aviation. For example, the encyclopedia talks about Leonardo DaVinci’s attempts to establish the theories of possibility of air flight, but then says that “the credit for the further development of his theoreticla ideas and their realization belong to the Russians.” Also, even though the encyclopedia entry mentions major breakthroughs in the study of aviation by sources other than Russians, they don’t go into detail. An example of this is when it mentions the Wright Brothers first successful manned flight of an airplane. This topic is talked about for only three and a half sentences, but then is followed by a large paragraph about two not as significant Russian scientists who founded the first school of aerodynamics. This source is a good example of xenophobia through the way that it talks so highly about the Russians.

Overall, both “Stilyaga” and the Aviation excerpt are great examples of cultural xenophobia in the Stalinist Post-war era of the Soviet Union. IT wouldn’t be until th emid to late 1950s when the Great Thaw takes place, which begins to eleviate some of xenophobia in the country.



Belyaev, D. “Stilyaga.” In Mass Culture in Soviet Russia. edited by James Von Geldern and Richard Sites, 450- 453. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995.

“Aviation: From the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.” In Mass Culture in Soviet Russia. edited by James Von Geldern and Richard Sites, 479-86. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995.

17 Moments


2 thoughts on “Stilyagi and Airplanes

  1. A. Nelson says:

    You took a fresh approach to these sources and the result is pretty interesting! I’d not really thought about the Stilyagi as an example of xenophobia – since they were definitely intrigued by the West and trying to imitate American fashion (not xenophobic at all). But you’re right, the “adults” response to these rebel youth definitely has a touch of anti-foreigner sentiment to it! (On the Stilyagi – check out Caroline and Claire’s posts to see what they did.)
    And using the aviation excerpt was a great idea! Do you think that extreme patriotism and pride are the flip sides of xenophobia?


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