Alternative culture in a socialist city: punkers and long-haired people in Prague in the 1980s'

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Abstract: Cities in socialist Czechoslovakia were meant to constitute the setting for an ideal socialist society. The dogmatic embracement of this objective by the ruling Communist Party eventuated in complete intolerance towards any manifestation of free-thinking or alleged opposition to socialism. Starting in the 1960s, part of the Czechoslovak youth were inspired by the Western countercultural hippie movement and the Beat generation, as well as by punk subculture beginning in the 1970s. These people openly displayed their alienation from the offi cial culture by disrupting the established societal standards of appearance, behaviour, and leisure activities. The State Security saw them as ideologically biased, labelling them as the defected youth in an effort to eradicate their presence from the public space and separate them from other citizens. As Czechoslovakia’s capital and biggest city, Prague had the highest concentration of people inspired by Western countercultures. Their appearance, activities, and cultural production provoked the conformist society, and lead to the regime’s hostility and repressions. Unlike Western countercultures, which were based on political protest against their respective regimes, Czechoslovak alternative groups inspired by these countercultures were, in most cases, rather apolitical. In a time of post-1968 normalization, their anti-regime opposition originated mainly in the attempts of the totalitarian state to normalize their cultural aspirations. This paper explores the ways in which the context of socialist Prague affected the practices and routines employed by the fans of alternative culture throughout the.1980s, resulting in their antagonistic relation towards the totalitarian regime.


socialist city; urban society; alternative culture; totality; punkers; long-haired people

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