The University of Wisconsin Press

History / Slavic Studies / Politics / Cultural Studies

Hooligans in Khrushchev’s Russia
Defining, Policing, and Producing Deviance during the Thaw
Brian LaPierre

“A superb piece of work—an engaging, lively, well-written, and wholly original account of the Khrushchev leadership’s preoccupation and attempts to deal with a variety of forms of deviance.”
—Peter H. Solomon, Jr., University of Toronto, author of Soviet Criminal Justice under Stalin

Swearing, drunkenness, promiscuity, playing loud music, brawling—in the Soviet Union these were not merely bad behavior, they were all forms of the crime of “hooliganism.” Defined as “rudely violating public order and expressing clear disrespect for society,” hooliganism was one of the most common and confusing crimes in the world’s first socialist state. Under its shifting, ambiguous, and elastic terms, millions of Soviet citizens were arrested and incarcerated for periods ranging from three days to five years and for everything from swearing at a wife to stabbing a complete stranger.

Hooligans in Khrushchev’s Russia offers the first comprehensive study of how Soviet police, prosecutors, judges, and ordinary citizens during the Khrushchev era (1953–64) understood, fought against, or embraced this catch-all category of criminality. Using a wide range of newly opened archival sources, it portrays the Khrushchev period—usually considered as a time of liberalizing reform and reduced repression—as an era of renewed harassment against a wide range of state-defined undesirables and as a time when policing and persecution were expanded to encompass the mundane aspects of everyday life. In an atmosphere of Cold War competition, foreign cultural penetration, and transatlantic anxiety over “rebels without a cause,” hooliganism emerged as a vital tool that post-Stalinist elites used to civilize their uncultured working class, confirm their embattled cultural ideals, and create the right-thinking and right-acting socialist society of their dreams.

Portrait of author Brian LaPierreBrian LaPierre is assistant professor of history at the University of Southern Mississippi.


“LaPierre’s book, a tightly argued and well-researched monograph, adds significantly to our understanding of crime and justice under Khrushchev. It also provides rich food for thought as scholars take on the challenge of fully understanding what living in the workers’ state actually meant for members of the urban proletariat some forty years into the experiment and in the wake of a devastating war.”
—Miriam Dobson, Journal of Modern History

Hooligans in Khrushchev’s Russia provides a rich and at times beautifully constructed portrait of how the Soviet hooligan was depicted in the public imagination and it shows how, at a time of major transition and uncertainty, the Soviet administration turned to deviancy as a mirror image that could be used to affirm its core civilizational values.”
—Yoram Gorlizki, author of Cold Peace: Stalin and the Soviet Ruling Circle

A Mellon Slavic Studies Initiative Book
This book is part of a five-year initiative for publishing first books by scholars in the fields of Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)


Of Related Interest:
The cover of Ryan's book is Soviet red, with an official portrait of Stalin in the process of being defaced.Stalin in Russian Satire, 1917–1991
Karen L. Ryan
"Ryan is unique in her focus on the methods and devices used for satiric distortion of Stalin's image. This angle allows her to examine Soviet/Russian national complexes rather than Stalin as a historical figure."—Mark Lipovetsky, author of Russian Postmodernist Fiction: Dialogue with Chaos

Cartoon of a "hooligan" with a cigarette in his mouth, a tattoo on his arm, and a bottle of booze next to him.

December 2012
LC: 2011045234 HV
264 pp.    6 x 9    9 b/w tables

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