Youth Crime under Perestroika

In a Komsomolskaya Pravda article dated April 13, 1993, O. Karmaza wrote that “in recent times, we have destroyed everything that could be destroyed. This applies to children and teenagers, too.” Describing the chaotic early years of the Russian Federation through a metaphor of destruction is not out of place. Articles about generation gaps, or a perception of youth as rebellious or out of control, are not uncommon in stable countries and thus should not be a surprise in an unstable one. What is surprising, however, is that Karmaza was not simply referring to rebellious youth. She was writing about an “increase in crime among minors [that] has taken on the nature of an epidemic.”[1] Of the estimated 1.78 million crimes committed in the Russian Federation in 1992, nearly 200,000 were committed by minors, half of which were juveniles under the age of 14.[2]  In comparison, of the estimated 14.5 million crimes committed in the United State in 1992, 2.3 million were committed by minors, of which 36% were younger than 15.[3]  Karmaza was not simply writing about petty theft or vandalism, but about grievous crimes against the property and persons of other Russians: violent, often murderous, and seemingly pointless. Nor was she the only journalist discussing such topics. The Russian press in the late 1980s and early 1990s contained numerous articles showing an increasing alarm concerning crimes perpetuated by juvenile offenders.

This alarm implied more than a simple generation gap. It implied a fear that the upcoming generation of Russians, a generation largely coming of age in the Russian Federation, was or would soon be lost. It illustrated the perceived failures of perestroika, a lack of confidence in the ability to produce a new generation of productive Russian citizens, and a fear that, if these children were the future, then perhaps Russia was doomed. The perception and presentation of this youth crisis underlined the chaos of the “transition” of the early 1990s and revealed a state incapable of governing at least its youth population.

This study will focus on the years from 1988 to 1995, drawing primarily on Soviet and Russian newspaper articles translated and reprinted in the Current Digest of the Soviet Press (theCurrent Digest of the Post-Soviet Press after 1991), especially in the year 1992. There was an insufficient number of articles published in the CDSP/CDPSP before 1988 and after 1995 to discuss youth crime outside this date range. The discussion will also focus largely on events and demographics concerning Moscow, as this is where the majority of journalists were reporting from or writing about.

Generational conflict is not unknown to modern society, and Russia is no exception. By looking briefly at some earlier conflicts, the extreme case of the youth crisis in the early 1990s can be made clearer.[4] Each such conflict is a product of different contexts and consists of different actions by the youth in question. Anne Gorsuch writes about one such conflict during the NEP period under the USSR in “The Dance Class or the Working Class: The Soviet Modern Girl,” in the edited volume The Modern Girl Around the World. Gorsuch takes on the concept of the nepkas, or “NEP girls,” known for “their connection to economic extravagances and ‘decadent’ Western-influenced cultures” associated with the New Economic Policy. These girls, with their love of jazz, material pleasures, and implied sexuality, were seen by some as a threat to the communist body politic, a threat which grew directly out of the dangerous policies of NEP which, coming after war communism, concerned the communists.[5] The nepkas would vanish with NEP, but the wild excesses associated with capitalism would return as a theme in the youth crisis of the 1990s.

In “The Arrival of Spring? Changes and continuities in Soviet youth culture and policy between Stalin and Khrushchev,” Juliane Fürst defines three prominent archetypes of problem youths faced by the Soviet Union in the years following Stalin’s death: hooligans, stiliagi, and ideological critics and non-conformists. Hooliganism was the only criminal category that witnessed a rise in youth offense while the crime rate was otherwise rapidly declining. This may have been due to the unclear definition of hooliganism, which applied to a wide range of actions, “from drunken brawls to destruction of property to swearing in public.”[6]

The stiliagi are a phenomenon akin to the nepkas of the 1920s: fashion-conscious youths intrigued by contact with the West and starved for entertainment. Stiliagi and hooliganism do not seem to have been intrinsically linked, but the two were not mutually exclusive. Once again, the desire of such youths for Western fashions and entertainment challenged Soviet social norms.[7]

Finally, there are those youth, mostly university students, who became “ideological critics and non-conformists.” These are the most influential of Fürst’s archetypes. Although much of their criticism was made within the socialist context through what might be called socialism with a human face, neo-Leninism, or even perestroika,[8] two writers would, in 1992, as we shall see below, hold them personally responsible for the youth crisis. This third archetype would not, however, be seen within the context of the youth crisis itself, for the articles contributing to the discussion never present the young criminals of the late 1980s and early 1990s as conscious critics of the state or its policies. The archetypes in the youth crisis are instead those of the violent criminal, the prostitute, or the drug addict.

Sex, Drugs, and Violence: The Crimes of the Youth Crisis

We have already seen the number of youth criminals presented by O. Karmaza in the introduction, but returning to the article this paper opened with provides us with more details:

Right now one of every three participants in a group crime is a minor, and one of every four extortionists is a teenager; of the more than 20,000 criminal groupings known to the police today, groupings involving minors account for 85%. In the past five years, the number of criminals aged 14 and 15 has increased by more than 50%. The number of girls participating in crimes has increased by almost one-third. There has been a drastic increase in thefts, beatings and criminal acts associated with the making and selling of drugs.[9]

Karmaza provides a solid introduction to the variety of criminal acts associated with the youth crisis but she is not the only one who provides numbers. According to Aleksei Chelnokov, writing for Izvestia, youths were responsible for 13% of criminal acts committed in Moscow in the first half of 1993. Youths were caught selling drugs 3.5 times as often, and four times as many youths were involved in extortion, as had been the case by the same point in 1992. By August 1993, an estimated 80,000 youths of various ages had dropped out of the school system in order to pursue “criminal” or “semilegal” business on the streets.[10] Valery Reshetnikov, also of Izvestia, writes that drug use in Moscow schools was 15% higher in 1991 than it had been in 1990.[11] According to Karmaza, there were as many as 1,000 or more girls under the age of 18 working as prostitutes in Moscow alone in 1992, and prostitution ranked as the most popular future profession among high school girls in the city.[12]

Not only was juvenile crime on the rise, but much of that crime had taken on a noticeably violent tinge. Karmaza describes numerous violent acts in her articles. In Novorossiisk a 13-year-old boy hung his younger sister and brother, after failing to rape each of them. An 11-year-old girl in Moscow was strangled by a group of teens who decided to rob her. In Kostroma, a 14-year-old boy murdered an eight-year-old in order to ransom the body to his victim’s parents.[13] Children washing car windows at busy Moscow intersections would often resort to violence against drivers who refused to pay for their services or bribe them. Drivers who made the mistake of leaving their car to “teach the hooligans a lesson” were met by gangs of older youths in support of the window washers, as part of protection rackets aimed at children who were rumored to make up to 40,000 rubles a day.[14] The first half of 1993 saw 7,447 reported rapes involving attempted murder, a quarter of which were committed by someone 14 to 17 years old.[15]

Youths were also becoming increasingly involved in prostitution in the early 1990s, some at extremely young ages. In a lengthy article on underage prostitution, Karmaza informs her readers that girls aged 12 to 15 could be found sitting in cars around Moscow as their pimps found business for them. Meanwhile, girls as young as seven or eight years old were being used for sex as well, waiting alone in apartments for the men their pimps would send to them. It was these youngest girls who earned the most, $100 to $150 for an hour session, although for a “little girl who is still untouched, the price might be $400-$450.”[16] Many of these girls were connected with juvenile gangs, and there was a much higher rate of petty theft and other crime among youth prostitutes than their adult colleagues. Furthermore, while the prostitutes generally committed less serious crimes than male criminals, they too were prone to acts of violence.

A young prostitute interviewed by Karmaza, called Maya, explained the process of recruiting new prostitutes and how girls who ran off were punished. “We might shave a girl’s head and burn it with a cigarette,” Maya informed Karmaza. On the more extreme end, they might “shove a wineglass inside her and break it.” Either way, Maya justified the actions with crude materialism, stating that, after all, “we gave her some duds [clothes], didn’t we?”[17]

Drugs and alcohol make many appearances in the public discourse on the youth crisis. Most are relatively vague, especially concerning narcotics, and fail to mention the kinds of drugs youths were using or detail the kinds of crimes associated with them. In the first three quarters of 1992, the drug trade had a turnover totaling some 100 billion rubles, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.[18] Drug dealers were rumored to make up to 300,000 rubles per day. In 1992 there were 1,800 “crimes associated with drug trafficking,” compared with 24 such crimes in 1994. No details are given as to what these crimes were, with the exception that the numbers “do not include numerous crimes committed by military personnel or individuals recognized as mentally ill.” The average age of these criminals is given as 18 to 25, although youths under the age of 18, and women in general, were becoming increasingly involved.[19]

In 1988, G. Ovcharenko reported a 2.8% increase in juvenile crime over the previous five years, including a marked increase in crime by 14- to 15-year-olds, as well as increasing use of drugs, alcohol and “toxic substances” among youth. Shockingly, he reports that half of kindergarten boys and one third of their female classmates admitted to already having tried “intoxicating drinks.”[20] Many of the children in the Melitopol and Abovyan Upbringing and Labor Colonies, two penal colonies for child offenders, appear to have been drunk when they committed the often violent crimes for which they were incarcerated.[21] Youths drinking on Red Square were not uncommon.[22] Three out of four rapes committed in 1993 were committed while the perpetrator, juvenile or otherwise, was drunk.[23]

Stupid, Crude, and Bored: The Characterization of Problem Youth

In sharp contrast with the ideological critics of the 1960s described by Fürst, the problem youth of the 1990s are largely presented as the dregs of society. They are variously described as “aggressive, vulgar, morally lax and corrupt.”[24] Youths sometimes admitted that their crimes were caused by arguments, jealousy or even boredom. One such girl ended up in Melitopol after attacking another girl on the street, just to steal her jacket.[25] Sometimes they would murder for no apparent reason, as if there was “nothing else to do.”[26]

Karmaza writes that 70% of the teens in the Mozhaisk Upbringing and Labor Colony were “mentally defective,” and that many had trouble telling time, reading, or writing.[27] She describes underage prostitutes as “indecently limited and stupid,” 90% of them not using condoms, as well as being “defiantly crude and vulgar,” arguing over who had contracted gonorrhea most often or who had slept with more men old enough to be their grandfathers.[28]

It becomes readily apparent that many of these underage criminals were poorly educated, if at all. Many seem to have dropped out of school in order to pursue careers on the street, but the educational system could not always be trusted to produce youth capable, or willing, to resist the lure of crime. According to Tatyana Georgiyevna Vinogradova, vice-president of the newly-formed Association of Women Employees of Internal Affairs, while perhaps “they didn’t do a great job of it,” schools used to teach children “moral and social values,” “what was good and bad, what was allowed and what was forbidden.”[29] No longer, it would seem, were schools still imparting these same lessons to children. According to Inga Prelovskaya, the Russian educational system had been decaying for some time, witnessing a general decrease in overall student capacity since 1982. Overcrowded classes and the loss of technical schools, coupled with overworked and underpaid teachers, no doubt drove many students to the streets.[30]

Higher education was not in a much better place. In a short but scathing Izvestia article dated May 29, 1992, Professor Valery Gurevich of Moscow State Pedagogical University laments “the ‘mafiazation’ of higher education” in Russia. He discusses the increase in fees and the increasing enrollment of paying students, all to the detriment of students who would traditionally study for free. By 1992, enrollment costs were up to 100,000 rubles (roughly US $177,870 in 1992)[31], and institutes were planning to charge for “graduate study, defending dissertations, taking exams, etc…” He argues that such practices destroyed the right to education. Gurevich even suggests that administrators of the secondary school system were discussing similar changes.[32]

Gurevich does not evoke crime or the youth crisis, but his statements can certainly speak to both. By limiting educational opportunities to those students whose parents can pay the outrageous fees being levied, the institutions are preventing many students from obtaining anything past a high school education. Such students may have been driven to semilegal or even criminal careers in order to make ends meet, or even dropped out in order to focus on a criminal career which promised greater reward.

Even those students who did stay in school could find themselves prone to hooliganism or more criminal acts out of boredom. Vinogradova maintains that youths with little or no sense of morality were out on the streets because “hobby clubs and activity sections are closing, and academic competitions and festivals have faded into oblivion.”[33] Factories and other privatized businesses, which may have hosted such clubs and competitions, seemed to have cut such programs in the new market economy. These programs, which during their heyday gave Soviet youth something to do outside of school and probably contributed to the construction of morality, were withering away as a byproduct of privatization. The Young Communists League no longer ran summer camps for youth, and many buildings once belonging to the Young Pioneers and the various Schoolchildren’s Palaces were being leased to cooperatives and joint enterprises.[34] Youths had nothing to do and nowhere to go to keep them off the streets.

The lack of extra-curricular activities for Russian youth may not have been enough to drive so many to crime. Nor does the crumbling educational system by itself explain the “stupidity” or crudeness of these problem youths, so we must turn to another cause for such behavior, found throughout the discourse of the youth crisis.

Persistent Neglect: Parenting, or the Lack Thereof, During the Youth Crisis

“Something isn’t right,” writes Aleksandr Vasinsky, “in the Soviet teenage lawbreaker; something important seems to be ‘missing’ in the way he comprehends things.” Vasinsky wondered what, exactly, these youth were missing, but after speaking to inmates at the Melitopol and Abovyan Upbringing and Labor Colonies, he was able to put forth some ideas. He ventures that much of this crisis seems to stem from deficient or nonexistent parenting.

Many of the youth Vasinsky spoke with had “no family upbringing at all.” Ten percent grew up without parents, twenty percent without a mother, and thirty percent without a father. Sixty percent of the girls he spoke with in Melitopol had never had lullabies sung to them. This last point feeds into Vasinsky’s larger thread. While he does not put any more weight on specific family issues beyond the numbers above, he does hit repeatedly on morality and behavioral norms and where they are learned. In a “well-reared teenager,” he informs us, “there is a distance between thinking and feeling,” which is filled in with taboos, notions and incentives towards normative behaviors, interactions with grandmothers, reading fairy tales and perhaps even the Bible.[35]

A steep rise in homeless youths occurred in 1993. Many had been rendered homeless when their parents privatized and sold their apartments, then fled with the money, leaving their children in the hands of the state, or, more commonly, to fend for themselves. The parents are described as alcoholics, while the real estate brokers buying up the newly privatized apartments are described as “swindlers.”[36]

When Ovcharenko wrote about substance abuse among youths in 1988, he linked it, as well as the increasing number of children living on the streets, to the “persistent neglect” of their parents. His examples are mostly vague; he writes about parents not responding to notifications of their children’s legal violations, and generally of the 100,000 children left without parental care.[37] The one specific example he does give concerns the home brewing of alcohol. He claims that such brewing had reached “unprecedented proportions in some regions,” such as Krasnodar, where 70% of youth who had left their homes departed because of home brewing, because they felt that the practice “left no place… for them in the family.”[38]

For the most extreme examples of parental neglect, we turn again to Karmaza’s exposé on underage prostitution. The youngest of prostitutes, known as “whores with a hair ribbon” or “first-grade prostitutes,” were sometimes “bought” by their pimps. Karmaza writes that their parents were most often homeless or alcoholic women “who generally show no signs of remorse” about their actions. These women might earn as much as 30,000 rubles for each girl.[39]

Punitive Economy: The Economics of the Youth Crisis

As we have seen, underage criminals were capable of making a great deal of money, although it is unlikely that many window washers on the streets of Moscow actually made 40,000 rubles a day. Vinogradova maintains that these youth seek instant gratification; they want wealth now and “not in some unforeseeable future.” These youth, unable to receive money from their often underpaid and financially strapped parents, turn to theft and prostitution to get what they want. Success, it seems, was measured in clothes, so much that “jeans and athletic shoes can mean more than life itself” to youth judged, and judging each other, by their material possessions.[40]

Vasinsky draws parallels between street robbery and what he calls the “punitive economy” where said robberies mimic, on a much more personal scale, the “many unspoken and fully legalized norms that flourish in the economic sphere and in relations between the state and consumers.” He poses such questions as: if the state cannot be bothered with morality, why should youths? If the oligarchs are free to take whatever they want, however they want, why shouldn’t youths as well?[41]

It may be easy to assume that the severe economic crisis in Russia during the 1990s was largely to blame for youth seeking out employment on the streets. However, according to Aleksei Chelnokov, many of the boys selling newspapers or washing car windows came from families “capable of dressing and feeding their offspring.” However, like nepkas or stiliagibefore them, these boys wanted the newest fashions and gadgets available: jeans from Belgium, Adidas shoes, or stereos from Japan. Many saw their wealtheir peers, children with well-to-do parents who denied them nothing, and grew jealous.[42] Some decided to work for their Western fashions, while some simply took what they wanted from their peers.

Writers who concerned themselves with the economics of the youth crisis seem to have assumed that the influx of foreign brands and consumables brought on by rampant and uncontrolled capitalism spurred many youths to take matters into their own hands. Such consumerism certainly flew in the face of older communist social and consumer norms, but unlike the cases of the nepkas or stiliagi, the Russian state in the 1990s was unwilling, and seemingly unable, to clamp down on the youths and reinforce those norms.

No One Is Doing Anything at All: Responding to the Youth Crisis

In February 1992, Valery Reshetnikov wrote an article in Izvestia about narcotics and the inability of the state to control either the use or trafficking of drugs. He informed his readers that Russia had decriminalized the use of narcotics; users could no longer be forced to seek treatment and were no longer required to identify their dealers. This last portion of the law, although Reshetnikov does not focus on it, seems the most important aspect, and the title of the article, “You Still Can’t Sell Drugs, but You Can Use Them,” implies that the manufacturing and trafficking of narcotics were still criminal acts subject to the legal process.[43] By removing the impetus for users to identify their dealers, however, the Russian legal system had removed the ability to stem the flow of narcotics into Russian society.

The state was also becoming unable to effectively treat drug addicts. Igor Chernykh, head of the department of drug rehabilitation at Moscow’s Drug and Alcohol Treatment Hospital No. 17 in Moscow, lamented this in a December 1992 article for Megapolis-Express. He told his readers that “there aren’t just a lot of drug addicts – the problem has reached fantastic proportions,” and that the problem, especially that of teenage drug use, requires a state program capable of “targeted methods of treatment and rehabilitation,” with a network of “psychotherapeutic care and job placement.” No such program, however, existed at the time.[44] Job placement, a process “thoroughly reviled by the ‘democrats’”[45] now in charge of the state, was hardly a viable option by the end of 1992.

He pointed out that things were not so perfect in the past, either. When the state began to offer anonymous treatment to drug addicts for a fee, Chernykh’s department was swamped by patients, many of whom had been users for 15 years or more, and all of whom had gone unnoticed by the USSR’s Ministry of Internal Affairs or Ministry of Public Health.[46]

A month later, Reshetnikov published an article about prostitution, wherein we find a similar picture of how ineffective the Moscow police were at dealing with that crime. The fine for prostitution was a mere 50-100 rubles, as well as an oral reprimand in front of junior police officers. A token fine and the attempt to shame prostitutes seem hardly capable of getting girls and women to move on from a profession that, by Reshetnikov’s calculations, could pay $100 to $200 per “session.”[47] Such a reaction also implies a police force, or at least a legislative system, utterly out of touch with the economic realities of prostitution and trapped in a Soviet mindset, one where public shame was a much more potent force.

In her exposé on underage prostitution, Karmaza lends support to Reshetnikov’s picture of a legal code that “has no teeth and is utterly worthless” as regards prostitution. She goes on to illustrate this with an article in the criminal code aimed at the corruption of minors which could, hypothetically, be used against pimps. However, proving that a given pimp has committed a crime requires prostitution charges to be brought against one of the girls in his employ, which in turn requires clients to testify and expose themselves as people who have paid for sex. Clients, she points out, “for some reason are unwilling to step forward.”[48] Karmaza’s sarcasm aside, she does get at the difficulty of policing vice. Gathering evidence to convict one person often requires another to implicate themselves in the same crime. While such confessions may have been a staple of the Stalinist show trials, in an era of glasnost and perestroika, they were apparently much harder to elicit.

Reshetnikov does try to provide a ray of light in his article, though a weak and flickering one. In March 1992, the Chief Internal Affairs Administration was working on a proposal for an amendment entitled “Entering into Intimate Relations for Remuneration” that, if accepted into the criminal code, would give the police some teeth in dealing with prostitution. The article would call for a 1,000 ruble fine, 15 days incarceration, and the seizure of any money found on the person of any prostitute “caught at the scene of the crime.”[49] The difficulties of enforcing such a law seem obvious, and the punishment might serve only to put women back onto the streets to earn the money they lost, but it does illustrate the growing pains of a police force dealing with a rapidly changing social order.

Writing six months later, however, Karmaza makes no mention of “Entering into Intimate Relations for Remuneration.” In fact, she assures us that the police are not failing at their task; they simply aren’t undertaking it. She mentions a recently adopted “Law on Police” that fails to even mention prostitution.[50]

Blaming Perestroika: The Chaos and Social Upheaval of “Transition”

Beyond placing blame on poor parenting, Aleksandr Vasinsky also blames the lack of “transitional stages” in the move “from totalitarianism to democracy” as his third stated cause for the youth crisis and one that forms a major theme in his discussion. He argues that “eras of great change,” and “revolutions as well,” often witness an increase in crime rates. Perestroika was no different, and he cites a “weakening of the former harsh regime and the breakdown of repressive mechanisms” as contributing to the upheaval, resulting in a lack of social order.[51]

G. Ovcharenko’s 1988 article provides vague definitions of parental neglect, but the larger message is clear: the upheavals of perestroika were ruining families, youth and Russia’s future. As we have already seen, the state was doing little to combat these problems. Most agencies and enterprises tasked with dealing with the social issues Ovcharenko writes about had little information concerning the children of the families in question. Even those institutions with “extensive information about alcoholism, drug addiction and the mental state of the population” were doing nothing to expose those very problems.[52]

Ovcharenko presents a two-pronged critique of “transition.” First is the chaos and destabilization of society. Second is the lingering Soviet system, apparent in the lack of transparency on the state’s part. Unless groups with knowledge of the state’s growing problems reveal those problems, nothing can, or will, be done to combat them.

If other articles may hint at the upheavals of perestroika as the root cause of the youth crisis in the early 1990s, then back-to-back articles from the first issue of Stolitsa, published in January 1992, make no mistake about the connection. The first is by Nina Aleksandrovna Andreyeva, famous for her 1988 article “I Can’t Forgo Principles,” which attacked the policies of perestroika, defended Stalinism and decried Gorbachev and other reformers.[53] Four years later, in another article,.her ire had not waned, and she held “democrats” responsible for the “bourgeois counterrevolution that is being launched in the country.” She sees the democrats, the “people of the sixties,” and the “children of the thaw” as traitors to Soviet history and their own childhoods. She argues that these individuals have led astray the impressionable young people of the late 1980s and early 1990s, using them to “do away with socialism.”[54]

Andreyeva also lays the blame for the youth problem on two issues discussed previously in this paper: the collapse of higher education and the refusal of the state to place graduates in jobs (as had been the norm under Communism). These youth, despondent at their pitiful employment opportunities, turn their dormitories into “houses of ill repute,” rife with “drug addiction, venereal disease, homosexuality and lesbianism.”[55] It is obvious that Andreyeva finds these things reprehensible, and that she holds perestroika and those who implemented it responsible, but she provides no evidence for her claims.

The second Stolitsa article makes a more coherent argument of cause and effect. Valeria Novodvorskaya, a journalist, “professional revolutionary,” and member of the Democratic Union, also blames perestroika for the youth crisis, though in a very different manner. Purporting to write “on behalf of the Children,” after having gone “over to their side,” Novodvorskaya proceeds to define the moral outrages of the youth crisis in reactionary terms. “Sex, striptease and homosexuality” are responses to “Orwellian Antisex Leagues… the public examination of personal love affairs” and Article 121 of the Criminal Code, which banned sodomy. Once punishable by incarceration, pornography is now found “in every pedestrian underpass and every video club,” while “kids will walk around with nunchaks” because the Soviet Union once incarcerated people for “propagandizing violence.” Where once alcoholism was treated in therapy and labor rehabilitation centers, students brazenly drink on Red Square.[56]

There is essentially a one-to-one ratio of state action to youth backlash, but little else to prove Novodvorskaya’s point. Although considerably different in their attribution of the youth crisis to perestroika, both articles share a lack of any real argument. Both are essentially editorials, and do not purport to be anything else, but they do help to illustrate a common belief, held at least by some journalists and letter writers, that perestroika and the social upheaval that followed was the root cause of the youth crisis.


The early 1990s in Russia were years of significant social and economic upheaval. It is during times of great social change that generational conflicts are often most obvious, and the extreme situation in post-Soviet Russia sharpened that conflict to a murderous point. The early 1990s saw more than a simple generational conflict; they witnessed a youth crisis, where the structures of Russian society were being not so much transformed as rent asunder.

Of course, the problem youths detailed above represented only a fraction of Russian youths, and an even smaller fraction of the Russian population at the time. They still managed to capture the focus of Russian journalists and of American academics who translated, edited and published those journalists’ articles. The youth crisis functions as a very real metaphor for the immediate post-Soviet experience in Russia, one of chaos and uncertainty. The old system and the old rules were being destroyed; they no longer applied to economics or governance, just as they no longer applied to social interactions or morality. The problem youths represented a new way, willing and able to do whatever it took not only to survive, but to achieve their goals, while the older generations looked on in shock and horror as their world came apart at the seams. The problem youths were oligarchs of the streets. Eventually they were brought under control and stability would return to Russia, but between 1988 and 1995, no one could be sure of that.


Aleksandrovna, Nina Andreyeva. “Oh Russia, My Russia.” Stolitsa, No. 1, January 1992.

Center for Disease Control. “Public Health Assessment-Russian Federation, 1992.” (accessed April 23, 2010).

Chelnokov, Aleksei. “Children of the Market.” Izvestia, August 11, 1993.

Chernykh, Igor. “We Treat Adults and Cripple Kids.” Megapolis-Express, December 16, 1992.

Fürst, Juliane. “The Arrival of Spring? Changes and continuities in Soviet youth culture and policy between Stalin and Khrushchev.” In The Dilemmas of De-Stalinization: Negotiating cultural and social change in the Khrushchev era, ed. Polly Jones. (London: Routledge, 2006).

Gorsuch, Anne E. “The Dance Class or the Working Class: The Soviet Modern Girl.” In The Modern Girl Around the World: Consumption, Modernity, and Globalization, ed. Alys Eve Weinbaum, et. al. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008).

Gurevich, Valery. “Education May Become Inaccessible to the Majority.” Izvestia, May 29, 1992.

Karmaza, O. “Child Labor in Russia: Prostitution- Komsomolskaya Pravda Investigates Sexual Services of a New Kind.” Komsomolskaya Pravda, October 10, 1992.

Karmaza, O. “Crime and Punishment: Murderous Age.” Komsomolskaya Pravda, 13 April, 1993.

“M-E Files.” Megapolis-Express, December 16, 1992.

Mochalina, Natalia. “The Market-Parents and Children: A Lost Generation.” Pravda, January 22, 1992.

Novodvorskaya, Valeria. “Abraham’s Sacrifice-The Generational Conflict as Viewed by a Turncoat.” Stolitsa, No. 1, January 1992.

Osheverova, Lidia.  “Children Left to be Picked Up.”  Izvestia, September 14, 1993.

Ovcharenko, G. “In the USSR Prosecutor’s Office: It Begins with the Family.” Pravda, June 25, 1988.

Prelovskaya, Inga. “Renewal in Order to Survive – Russia’s Schools Need Support.” Izvestia, February 14, 1992.

Reshetnikov, Valery. “We’ll Strike at Prostitution with High Morals.” Izvestia, March 24, 1992.

Reshetnikov, Valery. “You Still Can’t Sell Drugs, but You Can Use Them.” Izvestia, February 19, 1992.

Roshchin, Valentin. “Once Again, We’re Going Our Own Way.” Megapolis-Express, December 16, 1992.

United Nations Crime and Justice Information Network. “Total recorded crime per 100,000 population, 1980-1997.” (accessed April 23, 2010).

Vasinsky, Aleksandr. “Girl with a Knife.” Izvestia, December 5-6, 1990.

[1] O. Karmaza, “Crime and Punishment: Murderous Age,” Komsomolskaya Pravda, April 13, 1993. Reprinted in the Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press (CDPSP), vol. 45, no. 18, pages 18-19.

[2] Karmaza, pg. 18; Center for Disease Control, “Public Health Assessment-Russian Federation, 1992,”, accessed August 22, 2012; United Nations Crime and Justice Information Network, “Total recorded crime per 100,000 population, 1980-1997,”, accessed August 22, 2012.The number and age of youth criminals comes from Karmaza, the estimated total of crimes committed is my own math based on data from the latter two articles, and I take full responsibility for any mathematical errors.

[3] United Nations Crime and Justice Information Network, “Total recorded crime per 100,000 population, 1980-1997,”; “Intercensal Estimates of the United States Population by Sex, 1990-2000: Selected Months,”, accessed August 22, 2012; “1992 Juvenile Arrests – FBI Uniform Crime Reports Data,”, accessed August 22, 2012.  The number and age of youth criminals comes from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports Data, the estimated total of crimes is again based on my own math based on the UN data and the US census data, and I take full responsibility for any mathematical errors.

[4] I shall refer to previous conflicts as “generational conflicts” and to that of the early 1990s as a youth crisis in order to distinguish the situation of the 1990s by the extremity with which these youths “rebelled” against earlier generations and social norms.

[5] Anne E. Gorsuch, “The Dance Class or the Working Class: The Soviet Modern Girl,” in The Modern Girl Around the World: Consumption, Modernity, and Globalization, ed. Alys Eve Weinbaum, et. al. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008), 175-177.

[6] Juliane Fürst, “The Arrival of Spring? Changes and continuities in Soviet youth culture and policy between Stalin and Khrushchev,” in The Dilemmas of De-Stalinization: Negotiating cultural and social change in the Khrushchev era, ed. Polly Jones (London: Routledge, 2006), 135-137.

[7] Fürst, 138.

[8] Fürst, 140-141.

[9] Karmaza, “Murderous Age,” 18.

[10] Aleksei Chelnokov, “Children of the Market,” Izvestia, August 11, 1993. Reprinted in CDPSP, vol. 45, no. 32, page 24.

[11] Valery Reshetnikov, “You Still Can’t Sell Drugs, but You Can Use Them,” Izvestia, February 19, 1992. Reprinted in CDPSP, vol. 44, no. 7, pages 21-22.

[12] O. Karmaza, “Child Labor in Russia: Prostitution- Komsomolskaya Pravda Investigates Sexual Services of a New Kind,” Komsomolskaya Pravda, October 10, 1992. Reprinted in CDPSP, vol. 44, no. 42, pages 22-23.

[13] Karmaza, “Murderous Age,” 22.

[14] Chelnokov, 24.

[15] Valery Yakov, “Ministry of Internal Affairs Warns That an Increase in Sex Crimes Has Begun,” Izvestia, August 12, 1993. Reprinted in CDPSP vol. 45, no. 32, page 24-25.

[16] O. Karmaza, “Child Labor in Russia.” 22.

[17] Ibid.

[18] “M-E Files,” Megapolis-Express, December 16, 1992. Reprinted in CDPSP, vol. 44, no. 50, page 30; and Valery Reshetnikov, “You Still Can’t Sell Drugs, but You Can Use Them,” Izvestia, February 19, 1992. Reprinted in CDPSP, vol. 44, no. 7, pages 21-22.

[19] Ibid.  I am not privy to the details of how such records were kept, and am forced to rely on the data presented in the articles.

[20] G. Ovcharenko, “In the USSR Prosecutor’s Office: It Begins with the Family,” Pravda, June 25, 1988. Reprinted in the Current Digest of the Soviet Press (CDSP), vol. 40, no. 25, pages 22-23.

[21] Aleksandr Vasinsky, “Girl with a Knife,” Izvestia, December 5-6, 1990. Reprinted in CDSP, vol. 42, no. 49, pages 6-7.

[22] Valeria Novodvorskaya, “Abraham’s Sacrifice-The Generational Conflict as Viewed by a Turncoat,” Stolitsa, No. 1, January 1992. Reprinted in CDPSP, vol. 44, no. 4, page 15.

[23] Yakov, 24.

[24] Nina Aleksandrovna Andreyeva, “Oh Russia, My Russia,” Stolitsa, No. 1, January 1992. Reprinted in CDPSP, vol. 44, no. 4, pages 14-15.

[25] Vasinsky, “Girl with a Knife,” 7.

[26] Karmaza, “Murderous Age,” 18.

[27] Karmaza, “Murderous Age,” 18.

[28] Karmaza, “Child Labor in Russia,” 23.

[29] Natalia Mochalina, “The Market-Parents and Children: A Lost Generation,” Pravda, January 22, 1992. Reprinted in CDPSP, vol. 44, no, 3, page 29.

[30] Inga Prelovskaya, “Renewal in Order to Survive – Russia’s Schools Need Support,” Izvestia, February 14, 1992. Reprinted in CDPSP vol. 44, no. 7, page 26.

[31] “Kurs dollara k rublju I rublja k dollar s 1792 po 2011 godu,”, based on the entry for June 24, 1992.

[32] Valery Gurevich, “Education May Become Inaccessible to the Majority,” Izvestia, May 29, 1992. Reprinted in CDPSP vol. 22, no. 22, page 23.

[33] Natalia Mochalina, “The Market-Parents and Children: A Lost Generation,” Pravda, January 22, 1992. Reprinted in CDPSP, vol. 44, no, 3, page 29.

[34] Karmaza, “Murderous Age,” 19.

[35] Vasinsky, “Girl with a Knife,” 6-7.

[36] Lidia Osheverova, “Children Left to be Picked Up,” Izvestia September 15th, 1993.  Reprinted in CDPSP vol. 45, no. 37, page 27.

[37] It is not clear if these 100,000 youths are runaways or have been removed from their homes by the state.

[38] G. Ovcharenko, “In the USSR Prosecutor’s Office: It Begins with the Family,” Pravda, June 25, 1988. Reprinted in CDSP, vol. 40, no. 25, pages 23-24.

[39] Karmaza, “Child Labor in Russia,” page 22.

[40] Mochalina, “The Market-Parents and Children: A Lost Generation,” 26.

[41] Vasinsky, 6-7.

[42] Chelnokov, 24.

[43] Valery Reshetnikov, 21-22.

[44] Igor Chernykh, “We Treat Adults and Cripple Kids,” Megapolis-Express, December 16, 1992. Reprinted in CDPSP vol. 44, no. 50, pages 30-31.

[45] Novodvorskaya, “Abraham’s Sacrifice,” page 15.

[46] Chernykh, 31.

[47] Valery Reshetnikov, “We’ll Strike at Prostitution with High Morals,” Izvestia, March 24, 1992. Reprinted in CDPSP vol. 44, no. 12, pages 28-29.

[48] O. Karmaza, “Child Labor in Russia,” page 23.

[49] Reshetnikov, “We Will Strike at Prostitution with High Morals,” page 29.

[50] Karmaza, “Child Labor in Russia,” page 23.

[51] Vasinsky, 6-7.

[52] G. Ovcharenko, 23.

[53] See Andreyeva, Nina Aleksandrovna, “I Can’t Forgo Principles,” Sovetskaya Rossia, March 13, 1988.  Reprinted in CDSP, vol. 40, no. 13, pages 1-6, and Brown, Archie, The Rise and Fall of Communism, (New York: Ecco, 2009), 504-506.

[54] Nina Aleksandrovna Andreyeva, “Oh Russia, My Russia,” Stolitsa, No. 1, January 1992. Reprinted in CDPSP, vol. 44, no. 4, pages 14.

[55] Andreyeva, “Oh Russia, My Russia,” pages 14-15.

[56] Valeria Novodvorskaya, “Abraham’s Sacrifice-The Generational Conflict as Viewed by a Turncoat,” Stolitsa, No. 1, January 1992. Reprinted in CDPSP, vol. 44, no. 4, page 15.

About the Author

Jason Black

Jason Black is a graduate student at Michigan State University, specializing in the Soviet Union. He will be spending the 2011-2012 academic year in Moscow doing preliminary dissertation research

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Andrei Nesterov

Andrei Nesterov leads SRAS' Research Services, performing remote archive research and consultations for researchers around the globe. Andrei graduated from Ural State University (journalism) and Irkutsk State Linguistic University (English). He also studied public policy and journalism at Duke University on a Muskie Fellowship and taught Russian at West Virginia University. As a journalist, he has reported in both Russian and English language outlets and has years of archival research experience. He has travelled Russia extensively and penned many stories on the “real Russia” which lies beyond the capital and major cities. Andrei also contributes news, feature stories, and language resources to the SRAS Family of Sites.

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