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Hippie summer camp in Gauja, Latvia, 1979

The hippie movement that captivated hundreds of thousands of young people in the West had a profound impact on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Within the Soviet system, a colorful crowd of artists, musicians, freaks, vagabonds and other long-haired drop-outs created their own system, which connected those who believed in peace, love, and freedom for their bodies and souls.

More than 40 years later, a group of eccentric hippies from Estonia take a road trip to Moscow where the hippies still gather annually on the 1st of June for celebration that is related to the tragic event in 1971, when thousands of Soviet hippies were arrested by the KGB. The journey through time and dimensions goes deep into the psychedelic underground world in which these people strived for freedom.



Recent rise of authoritarianism, setbacks in the struggles for social justice and the occurrence of wars – including the one in Ukraine – demands continuous discussion on the idea of non-violence. The Soviet Hippies sheds light on the history of the pacifist movement in Russia and Eastern Europe, and proposes an alternative trajectory in global cultural memory, demonstrating the vast creative potential that emerged within the totalitarian regime.

The film raises important points about the workings of power and the politics of ecstasy, ultimately tackling the questions of freedom and self-fulfillment. Soviet hippies struggled for their sense of freedom in many ways, but after the turn of the politicisation of the movement in 1970-1971, their active engagement with politics either ended up severely or didn’t change anything for better. They rather wanted to get as far as possible from everything they considered as political, so that the society wouldn’t disturb them and they in turn wouldn’t disturb the society. In the socio-political landscape of contemporary Russia, these sentiments reoccur in frightening clarity.

The story of the main protagonist, Aare, suggests that being trapped by a body which is ill leaves little choice but to focus on the vast potential of internal dreamscapes. But how to deal with the feeling of being trapped by a society which is ill?

Terje Toomistu

Director and script-writer


Hippie summer camp in Gauja, Latvia, 1979


Through the 1970s, a subcultural network often referred to as sistema (translates from Russian as the system) expanded across the urban Soviet Union, connecting likeminded people with awayfaring lifestyle. Between one other, information about gathering places and music festivals was shared, as well as the addresses and phone numbers of other people who associated themselves with sistema. The emerging social network made it possible to travel to another city and immediately find social support and a place to stay. As the hippies often say: “They had their system, we had our own system.” 


Music was the foundation and source of divergence among the Soviet youth. Like their contemporaries on the other side of the Iron Curtain, the locals also listened to iconic albums of the hippie era, but these were cautiously acquired on the black market, copied onto reel-to-reel tapes, and exchanged endlessly within the networks of friends. Compared to most other places in the USSR, Estonia had an exceptionally vivid rock music scene, marked by the legacy of groups such as Keldriline Heli (Väntorel), Suuk, Ornament, Mess, Psycho, Ruja, Radar, Meie, Kooma, Haak, etc. Several of these groups made their way to the film’s soundtrack (see also below!). 


Emphasizing the importance of sensorial pleasure, kaif (ecstasy, pleasure, high) became one of the central notions that shaped the practices and lifestyles of the hippies. There was a widespread desire among the hippies to experience something more than the bleak promise given by the Soviet power regime. Experimenting with various states of consciousness catered to the sense of imaginary elsewhere. This elsewhere within became an escape from the Soviet daily reality, giving some sense of freedom. 


Interview with director Terje Toomistu at Jacobin Magazine.

Film review at The Guardian by Luke Harding.

Film review at The Economist.

Film review at MyDylarama by Tommy Hodgson.

Film review at Modern Times Review.

Film review at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Interview with director Terje Toomistu at Psychedelic Baby Magazine.

Interview with director Terje Toomistu at Deep Baltic.

Film review at Rumba (Finnish).

Film review at Classic Rock (German).

Film review at Taxi Drivers (Italian).

Interview with director Terje Toomistu at Documentary Culture POV Magazine.


Hippie summer camp in Gauja, Latvia, 1979

We are wild. We are witty. We celebrate grotesque. We celebrate beauty. We hold on to cross-cultural and cross-generational communication. We love flowers, rock’n’roll and dreaming.

In the film about the Soviet hippies, we choose to break the rules and cross the barriers, rather than get stuck in any reserved and conventional way of story-telling. We believe that our relationship to the reality has to be always questioned, challenged and re-evaluated, while the values of peace and love are beyond questioning. We believe in film as a medium that leads to a variety of landscapes and states of consciousness, giving you a simultaneous joy of participation and the excitement of being on an unforeseen journey. We take you on a ride through time and space across the juxtaposed landscape of the Soviet and the endless corridors of creative minds.

If you’re a wanderer, a dreamer, a creative soul who rather opens the doors than closes them, who seeks for the unknown rather than sticks to the good old, if you question the political history that you’ve been told about and you wonder why The Beatles is still such a hit in your head and why Putin does what he does, if you believe in peace as the ultimate way of policy making and social love as the basis of everything, and you cry – why there’s still so much war and violence out there? Then you’re most certainly one of us.

Come and join our journey to fight against violence through peaceful means, celebrate creativity, hold on to our dreams and stand out for freedom of our bodies and souls, weather in thought or action, film or music, dreams or memories. Let’s rock and roll it.


  • Terje Toomistu

    Terje Toomistu

  • Liis Lepik

    Liis Lepik

  • Taavi Arus

    Taavi Arus

  • Kärt Radik

    Indrek Soe
    Sound engineer

  • Annika Sutt

    Exhibition curator

  • Priit Tender

    Priit Tender

  • Martin Männik

    Martin Männik

  • Marika Alver

    Marika Alver
    Archive researcher coordinator

  • Juliane Fürst

    Juliane Fürst
    Associate producer, research advisor

  • Irina Gordeyeva

    Irina Gordeyeva
    Research advisor

  • Seppo Vanhatalo
    Sound designer

  • Sarita Sharma

    Sarita Sharma
    Kinomaton (DE)

  • Sami Jahnukainen

    Sami Jahnukainen
    Mouka film (FI)


Hippie summer camp in Gauja, Latvia, 1979


UNERHÖRT! Music Film Festival, Hamburg, Germany 2018. The Main Jury Award.

Estonian Film Academy Award EFTA 2018. The Best Film Editor, Martin Männik.

Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2018. Nomination for the Best Documentary Award.

Trieste Film Festival 2018, Trieste, Italy. The Winner of Art&Sound Competition. The Sky Award by Sky Arte HD.

Estdocs Film Festival 2017, Toronto, Canada. The Main Jury Prize.

DocLeipzig 2017. Nomination for the MDR Award.


Sõprus,1.06.2017 , with manifest for the Summer of Love, invitation only – World Premiere

Helsinki IFF Love & Anarchy, 2017, Finland – Finnish Premiere

Mostra de Sao Paulo IFF, 2017, Sao Paolo, Brazil – International Premiere

Dok Leipzig, 2017 – European Premiere, Nomination for the MDR Award.

EstDocs Film Festival, 2017, Toronto, Canada – Winner of The Main Jury Prize.

Estonian Film Days Brussels (BOZAR), 2017, Belgium

Antarctis Film Festival, 2017, Finnish station Aboa, Antarctica

Trieste Film Festival, 2018, Trieste, Italy – The Winner of Art&Sound Competition.

Göteborg Film Festival, 2018, Sweden

Santa Barbara IFF, U.S. – Nomination for the Best Documentary Award.

CPH:Dox, 2018, Denmark, Section: HITS

Nordic Lights Film Festival, 2018, Belarus

CineDoc Tbilisi IDFF, 2018, Georgia

Beldocs, 2018, Serbia

Transilvania Film Festival, 2018, Romania

Krakow Film Festival, 2018, Poland

Baltic Film Days, 2018, Latvia and Lithuania

Delai Film, 2018, Moscow, Russia

Rudolstadt, 2018, Germany

Wende Museum, L.A., 2018, U.S.

Burning Man, 2018, U.S.

Roxie Cinema, 2018, San Francisco, U.S.

DOCK! International Documentary Film Festival Burgas, 2018 Burgas, Bulgaria

dieN.a.T.o Leipzig, 2018, Germany

Reykjavík International Film Festival, 2018, Reykjavik, Iceland

Baltic Film Festival, 2018, Boston, U.S.

Scandinavian House, 2018, New York City, U.S.

Osteuropäische Filmtage Dresden, 2018, Dresden, Germany

UNERHÖRT! Music Film Festival, Hamburg, Germany 2018. The Main Jury Award.

Baltic Film Festival in St Petersburg, 2019, St Petersburg, Russia.

Guild Cinema, 2019, Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.

HOME, 2019, Mancherster, U.K.

Dash Café, Rich Mix, 2019, London, U.K.

Kontrkultūra festival, 8.12.2019, Riga, Latvia


CUBE Cinema, 26.02.2020, Bristol, UK

Cavia FilmHuis, 22.03.2020, Amsterdam, Netherlands

WORM, 25.03.2020, Rotterdam, Netherlands


Hippie summer camp in Gauja, Latvia, 1979

Soviet Hippies online release!

Stream or download the film on Vimeo On Demand. Subtitles ENG, RUS and EST.

DVD (subtitles EST, ENG, RUS; all regions)

DVD is available in Estonia at the bookstore Rahva Raamat or you can order by mail from Estonian record store Lasering, ships internationally. 


Since the film received enourmous recognition for its selection of music, which all comes from the Soviet underground, we pressed the film soundtrack on vinyl. The beautiful PINK vinyl is illustrated with archival photos and comes with a digital copy.

Unfortunately we are already out of stock, but there are some vinyls still available at the Shiny Beast online store based in Netherlands, ships internationally. Also you may listen or purchase a digital version of the album via our Bandcamp page. 

Already got your vinyl and wanna grab your digital copy? Please insert your code here to get the digital version of the stunning album:


Soviet Hippies is also a multi-media traveling exhibition curated by Terje Toomistu and Kiwa. The exhibition combines oral history method with the study of pop culture, featuring carefully selected photographs and rare items from the Soviet hippie subculture, video interviews with the participants of the movement, music videos, and related art.

Previously exhibited in the Estonian National Museum in 2013, in Moderna Museet in Malmö, Sweden in 2014, in Uppsala Konstmuseum in Sweden in 2014, in Presentation House Gallery in Vancouver, Canada in 2014, in Red Gallery in London, U.K. in 2016, and in GalerieKUB in Leipzig, Germany in 2018.

We are open for proposals for future exhibitions.

For enquiries, please contact:

Soviet Hippies exhibition in Leipzig, Germany, 2018.


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