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Russia's Skinheads

Exploring and Rethinking Subcultural Lives

by: Hilary Pilkington, Al'bina Garifzianova, Elena Omel'chenko
published by
: Routledge
pp: 304

Book's frontpage

Russia’s Skinheads: Exploring and Rethinking Subcultural Lives provides a thorough examination of the phenomenon of skinheads, explaining its nature and its significance, and assessing how far Russian skinhead subculture is the ‘lumpen’ end of the extreme nationalist ideological spectrum. There are large numbers of skinheads in Russia, responsible for a significant number of xenophobic attacks, including 97 deaths in 2008 alone, making this book relevant to Russian specialists as well as to sociologists of youth subculture. It provides a practical example of how to investigate youth subculture in depth over an extended period – in this case through empirical research following a specific group over six years – and goes on to argue that Russian skinhead subculture is not a direct import from the West, and that youth cultural practices should not be reduced to expressions of consumer choice. It presents an understanding of the Russian skinhead as a product of individuals’ whole, and evolving, lives, and thereby compels sociologists to rethink how they conceive the nature of subcultures.


Table of contents

1. Introduction: Rethinking skinhead lives Hilary Pilkington

Part 1:
Growing up in a harsh climate
2. The weight of the Vorkuta sky: Placing youth cultural identities Hilary Pilkington
3. ‘At home I was a nobody’: The roots (and limits) of skinhead solidarity Elena Omel’chenko
4. ‘Upgrading’: Cultural interests and strategies Al’bina Garifzianova

Part 2: The meaning(s) of skinhead
5. ‘Skinhead is a movement of action’: Ideology and political engagement Hilary Pilkington
6. ‘Any skinhead likes to fight’: Ritual, racist and symbolic violence Hilary Pilkington
7. No longer ‘on parade’: Style and the performance of skinhead Hilary Pilkington
8. In search of intimacy: Homosociality, masculinity and the body Elena Omel’chenko

Part 3: Reflections on the Research Process
9. No right to remain silent? In search of equality in the field Elena Omel’chenko
10. Research emotions: The view from the other side Al’bina Garifzianova
11. Does it have to end in tears? Reflexivity and team-based ethnography Hilary Pilkington
12. Conclusion: Solidarity in action Hilary Pilkington

About the Authors

Hilary Pilkington is former Professor of Sociology at the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, and former Director of the Centre for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Birmingham. She is now a Professor in Sociology at the University of Manchester. Elena Omel’chenko is Professor of Sociology and Head of Department of Sociology at the Higher School of Economics, St Petersburg, and Director of the Scientific Research Centre Region, Ul’ianovsk.

Al’bina Garifzianova is a Senior Research Fellow at the Scientific Research Centre Region, Ul’ianovsk.


"This work comprises a milestone in the study of contemporary Russian society. By having the courage to take as an object of study a group that is decried, marginal, and difficult to break into, and by ably going beyond the cliches linked to racism and skinhead violence, these three authors have succeeded in providing a refl exive reading, one performed 'from the inside,' of individual and collective trajectories in Russia today. Marked by joys and fears, hopes and disappointments, love and hate, fraternal bonds and ruptures, these trajectories make it possible to give back to individual life choices their social depth, beyond ideological commitments. And they open up a large fi eld of research into the Russian cultural landscape and the strategies and resources that people use to give meaning to their lives."
- Marlene Laruelle, Slavic Review, Vol. 70, No. 3 (Fall 2011)


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