Swinging across the Iron Curtain and Moscow’s Summer of Love: How Western Youth Culture Went East

  • Juliane Fürst
Part of the The Palgrave Macmillan Transnational History Series book series (PMSTH)


The American journalist Harrison Salisbury was very surprised to encounter Tarzan on Moscow’s Gorky Street when visiting Russia in 1949. To be precise, he did not meet Tarzan himself nor did he bump into the American actor Johnny Weissmuller on Moscow’s main street. Rather he encountered the Soviet version of Tarzan: a young lad who amused him and his friends with the piercing cry of ‘Ekh-Dzhein’ (Hey-Jane).1 Tarzan was a phenomenon in Soviet postwar youth culture. He inspired a new hairstyle (long at the front and back, short at the sides) among trendy young Soviet men, provoked innumerable imitations of the above-described kind, and was well known even in remote areas of the country.2 By the time Salisbury met Tarzan as part of Soviet youth culture, the fetching hero had made a remarkable journey. The film copies, which introduced Soviet audiences to the man from the jungle and American film sensation, had come from occupied Germany as so-called trophy items and were shown in Soviet cinemas in the dubbed German version with Russian subtitles. Tarzan, who only made his way onto the Soviet screens because the Soviet postwar cinematic industry was in desperate need of money, had thus already entertained fascist Germany before he found himself in communist Russia.3 His on-screen persona was then filtered through the eyes of his enthusiastic Soviet audience, who applied their own views, desires, and preferences to it, turning him — the semi-primitive of the jungle — into a counter-icon for the strict, rule-bound Stalinist society in which they lived.


Youth Culture Iron Curtain Soviet Citizen Tank Driver Jazz Music 
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© Juliane Fürst 2015

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  • Juliane Fürst

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