Make War Not Love. Police and Nazi teens disperse a hippie festival in a Moscow park—event that had been held for at least 40 years
Анна Павлова
Make War Not Love. Police and Nazi teens disperse a hippie festival in a Moscow park—event that had been held for at least 40 years
3 June 2024, 20:15

Photo: Adel Maksimova / make a loss Telegram channel

In Moscow’s Tsaritsyno Park, police broke up Hippyatnik, a hippie festival that had been taking place for many years on a field behind the Grand Palace. Prior to this, the event was attacked by far-right teenagers who sprayed pepper spray at the attendees. Mediazona spoke with Hippyatnik participants who said that while isolated detentions had occurred before, law enforcement had never dispersed the entire festival. With the event being pushed from its usual location to the outskirts of the park since last year, they fear authorities may be aiming to ban all large gatherings of hippies, whose main idea is pacifism.

Over the past weekend, police in Moscow’s Tsaritsyno Park dispersed a hippie festival that had been held twice a year on a field behind the Grand Palace—on June 1 and September 1—for many years.

“Before my eyes, a police officer grabbed a girl by the hair and threw her to the ground, not letting go,” Maria, one of the participants, described the disruption of the annual Hippyatnik. “People were able to free her, but you can imagine how terrible she felt afterwards. Several more people were detained, some pinned to the ground with a knee—it was painful to watch. In the end, ‘due to weather conditions’, everyone was dispersed, even those observing from afar in another part of the ravine.”

Photo: Adel Maksimova / make a loss Telegram channel

The event’s group says such meetings have been held annually for half a century.

In 1971, Soviet hippies tried to hold their first anti-war action—on June 1, about 150 young people gathered in the courtyard of the Moscow State University history department and, according to Memorial, a human rights group, likely wanted to go to the US embassy on Novinsky Boulevard to protest against the Vietnam War. After they unfurled a banner with the slogan “Make Love Not War,” police began dispersing the crowd. “The demonstrators were loaded into cars according to the following principle: the hairiest into Volgas and minibuses, the rest into regular buses, and taken to different police stations,” the Chronicle of Current Events, a samizdat publication, reported. Not only the police but also the Komsomol detachment “Beryozka” participated in dispersing the hippies, Memorial notes.

Photo: Adel Maksimova / make a loss Telegram channel

Modern-day Hippyatniks are held without slogans or posters and, according to participants, more closely resemble large picnics with music and dancing. Nevertheless, since last September, they began to be pushed out from their usual site—the field behind the Grand Palace—to the outskirts of the park, explained by repairs or an event in honour of Children’s Day. According to Maria, who attended several Hippyatniks, this was the first time the gathering was broken up in her memory. And the security forces also had reinforcements: first, a group of neo-Nazis—judging by the photos, these were young close-cropped guys mostly in black T-shirts and shorts with runic-style belts by Thor Steinar, a brand closely associated with far-right movements—attacked the peacefully assembled people in Tsaritsyno, spraying them with pepper spray.

Photo: Adel Maksimova / make a loss Telegram channel

“I’ve been going there for about five years now, I think. We really look forward to this festival. Usually the police would come, but around 10–11 pm when the park had to close. They would just come and say, ‘citizens, let’s break it up,’ ” Anastasia, another Hippyatnik participant, told Mediazona. “There were detentions then too, detaining those who really acted out. There were no mass fights or anything like that. Everything was very calm.”

At the same time, she said, in the last couple of years, people in military uniforms could be seen at the event, who “sometimes behaved aggressively” but did not attack anyone.

Attack by neo-Nazi teenagers

“Hippyatnik has been held every year for many, many years, it has no organizers, so it can’t even be called a planned event. It’s just a mass picnic attended not only by hippies but also by many representatives of other cultures and the most ordinary people to socialize and get a positive charge,” Maria describes the informal festival.

Last September it was held on a hill—a bit further from the usual meadow, as the Tsaritsyno administration reported that “the meadow is under repair.” “We didn’t understand what could be repaired there, but everything was fenced off,” Anastasia says. This year, the traditional Hippyatnik location was occupied by some event in honor of Children’s Day, so people gathered on the outskirts of the park, but already in a ravine, because it was inconvenient for such a large crowd to settle on the hill. According to Anastasia’s description, there were several hundred participants, but people were constantly changing—by her count, up to a thousand people visited the festival in total.

Closer to the evening, the gathered noticed that police were being pulled to the edge of the ravine. And by about six o’clock, a group of shaven young men in black appeared at the event venue—she did not see exactly how many, but no more than ten.

Photo: Adel Maksimova / make a loss Telegram channel

“They were in black, bald, skinheads. They didn’t seem to be covering their faces, not even trying to hide,” Anastasia describes. “Very openly they came in from the main entrance and went straight ahead. People said they doused two girls with pepper spray and beat up a young man with their feet. As far as I know, there was also a conflict there because there was an Israel flag. And for them it was apparently some kind of trigger,” she says. She noted that in general, a distinctive feature of the festival is that there are usually no anti-war posters or flags.

The RusNews publication also wrote that one of the festival participants had an Israel flag. No Future, a Telegram channel, citing an eyewitness, reported that “at least five people were doused with pepper spray.” “I don’t remember the exact number. It all happened too quickly, I was attacked from behind. And then I was busy trying to figure out what was going on and ease the pain from the pepper spray,” one of the victims told IStories. According to him, during the attack, the neo-Nazis shouted “something about Jews.”

One short video spread on social media, in which teenagers in the distance seem to be kicking someone on the ground, and people are scattering around. It was also posted on his channel by the well-known misogynist and founder of the “Male State” bully group, Vladislav Pozdnyakov.

“Damn, see, they’re beating them up,” some young man says off-screen. “We got out in time! Praise all the gods,” adds a female voice.

Photo: Adel Maksimova / make a loss Telegram channel

According to Anastasia, there was no mass fight and few people tried to interfere with the neo-Nazis, “as if no one even did,” but she herself did not directly see the beating.

Maria also saw the attack itself only on video, but “distinctly felt the pepper spray in the air and on her tongue.”

Another Hippyatnik participant, Ivan, told Mediazona that the attackers “were quite young and unorganized.” “That is, it was not some major raid, but just people coming to have fun.” According to him, it was just “a small local conflict” that “the right-wing movement is presenting as its achievement and the informal Hippyatnik activists as a huge tragedy and the removal of the hippies from their habitat.”

Photo: Adel Maksimova / make a loss Telegram channel

Dispersal by mounted police

Shortly after the group of neo-Nazis left, the police raided the Hippyatnik. “We heard a siren from the park side and from the road side. It was alarming because it means someone was coming for us,” Anastasia says. “And indeed, for some reason a fire truck came first, stopped, and then mounted police started coming out of the bushes.”

At first, the security forces only announced over the loudspeaker that “the event is not authorized” and the assembled must disperse. And people did begin to slowly disperse, the girl says: “No one has ever, to my knowledge, tried to get a formal authorization for the festival,” she adds.

“Unfortunately, someone complained to the police, although I have absolutely no idea what for,” Maria adds. “They refused to answer questions like ‘why are you dispersing us?’, they answered ‘ask the local government’, they called the gathering an ‘unauthorized event’, although, I repeat, representatives of different subcultures came to sit in the park, as other people come every day.”

Photo: Adel Maksimova / make a loss Telegram channel

At some point, people were grabbed and taken to paddy wagons. Anastasia says that “there were some people who were shouting not very correct chants, condemning the police,” another young man wanted to hug a policeman, and he was then “tied up and taken to a paddy wagon.”

“I saw two men being detained in the ravine, but for some reason I’m sure they could have taken several more after that, many were filming on their phones, and the police were behaving very aggressively, it’s unknown what could have set them off,” says Maria. “And plus that poor girl who was dragged by the hair by a policeman, but she wasn’t detained in the end, she was in panic after what happened, maybe that’s why they let her go.”

According to her, she heard and read in the news that some schoolboy complained about “LGBT propaganda”, but “there were many passers-by, many people asked what kind of event was being held, so it’s hard to say who exactly could have done such a disservice.”

For example, Afisha Daily, citing Hippyatnik participants, reported that the security forces arrived on a tip from a student who reported that the assembled were displaying LGBT flags and smoking marijuana. The No Future channel provided a link to a chat where the meeting participants discussed that “the reason for the cops was a denunciation by a kid who goes by Gleb Boyarsky on VK: “He allegedly called ‘112’ and reported that someone at the event was smoking weed and had rainbow flags.” However, it is unknown whether this is actually a chat of participants, since the link leads to an empty channel created on June 2.

Photo: Adel Maksimova / make a loss Telegram channel

“The police who dispersed the event were not called by anyone—dispersals are an annual practice for Hippyatnik, so at least a police squad is always working on site,” says another visitor to the event, Ivan. “This time, however, it was the counter-extremism unit, in civilian clothes but with identifying marks. As soon as the unrest started related to the guys from the ‘right movement’—they naturally called the squad and dispersed the event.” Other people told Mediazona that previously festivals were not dispersed.

“We never have any anti-war posters, we’re all smart people, we understand perfectly well that it is impossible to do this, now especially. We don’t have any huge LGBT flags,” says Anastasia. “Last year, the only flag that was there was the flag of Jesus on a red background. We do have people walking around with LGBT symbols and pacifist symbols, but that’s limited to a bracelet on the wrist. The police were probably confused by the scale of the festival, because it is really huge. And the fact that the people who gathered are pacifists, are against war—we just have such a common idea.”

After the detentions, Hippyatnik participants left the ravine, but not all of them dispersed—some went up the hill where last year’s festival was, some to the entrance to the park, then to the subway, continuing to sing and dance until the police appeared there as well.

“I tried to join those who went to the subway, I saw that the get-together spontaneously continued: there was music, dances, dancing barefoot in the rain, and so on,” says Pavel, who came to the festival closer to the evening. “But soon the mounted police and a van appeared there too. The cops only left when everyone had gone and it stopped looking like any kind of general event at all.”

Participants fear that efforts are underway to quietly shut down Hippyatnik, whether by fencing off the usual venue or, as in this case, dispersing those gathered. “Of course, we very much hope that it will be possible [to hold the festival in September]. If anything, I think everyone will come to the ravine,” Anastasia says. “Our people are absolutely not inclined to stop Hippyatniks radically. Everyone will go til the end.”

Editor: Maria Klimova

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