She’s a hippie girl

By the second day it was pretty much clear to me – she’s a hippie, a hippie girl. When I told her that, she took it as a surprising compliment and blush. N. is 20 years old lady from East Coast hanging out around California. Daily she goes out on the streets, plays some guitar, meets people, talks to them about her hopes for the better world order and her concern about the third world was which supposedly is happening now. “With all the Syria and all that…” She tries to make some money, as she’s not on benefits anymore. The day has been successful for her when she gets some free food from People’s park or from the people she meets or at the public eateries for homeless people.
When I got here, there was a white rabbit on the yard, a lonely white little bunny, so sweet. I was surprised again how well the Goddess Coincidence can play it out for you – the memory of Jefferson Airplane and their White Rabbit activated in my mind, as well as the mystery Rabbit Hole of Alice in Wonderland, as a warm welcome from San Francisco. The white rabbit was in the garden also the next day, how cute she was. But I was surprised that N. didn’t know anything about Jefferson Airplane or the song.
I like her desire to make her way within the system, and thus change it from inside. She would like to work in the NGO sector, work with foundations, organizations, for the human rights and social justice, but first she wants to make documentaries about her travels. She knows she deserves money and she wants to make her contribution to the society, not sitting passively on drugs, neglecting all the world around you which turns out to be actually turning you into an ego-freak.
But she’s a hippie girl, a child of a drug addict mother whom she considers her friend. She wakes up in the morning and get’s her first high. Always makes new friends and looses old ones. Will she make it?

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Flowers in your hair and in your head, body walking in space

IMG_8956I have arrived. I am in America. All these dreams, illusions, memories and hopes for the big America start folding out in front of me through each and every second I walk on this earth, in the city of San Francisco, where you must go with flowers in your hair. I like to add here also flowers in your head. And your body walking in space. It has been wonderful to enter the country right on the spot, never leaving the airplane, rather floating on the yellow submarine.

When me and Berit were 20 and having our first bigger social experiment in life – that was when we decided to move to London, just for the excitement of it, just for the sake of the social experiment and fun – the idea of San Francisco sneaked in. Probably the overall materialistic attitude and class society of London was eating our brains the way that we started longing for the left-liberal dream.  San Francisco – the good old hippie capital – must be the right place to be. We were singing the “if you’re going to San Francisco” song and tried to figure out the visa case. Settling in in London was not a big deal, why would it be different in Frisco, we were wondering. But soon we started to realize that Europe and America are two different things and hippies in San Francisco have died out long ago.

It was not before I moved together with Monica in Indonesia while working on my fieldwork research in Yogyakarta. I spent the days with warias and working out my stuff, and in the evenings we had a lot to talk about with Monica. It seemed to be rather miraculous how similar we were when it came to the music, films, political attitude or thoughts on gender and (post-)colonial situation. Yet we had grown up each on different sides of the globe, but I wanted to pay her a visit in San Francisco.

Thank god that Susan Stryker, again her, as we met at the conference in Sweden, told me as the first thing: “Bay area would definitely be the right place for you to be!” One thing led to another, I was gifted with Fulbright scholarship, and when I now come to think about it, then I didn’t pick San Francisco, San Francisco picked me.

As a bright comet, the rock’n’roll legend takes off straight to the heavenly cosmos

We continue with our hippie journey through time back to the 1970s Estonia – the so-called Soviet West, where young people were thrilled by the radical youth movements that had been taking place earlier in the West, and now against the expected Soviet codes of behavior and morals they were seeking their own bitter trajectories towards something that would allow them to feel free within this rigid Soviet system. I’ll introduce you one of the rock’n’roll legends in Estonia – poet Aleksander Müller. 

As you read the post, here’s the soundtrack to put on – by Suuk – Statistiline (words by Jonnhy B, vocals Aleksander Müller)

The University town Tartu has always been the intellectual hub in Estonia, so some progressive thought developed here around the poetry evenings at University Café with Ave Alavainu or Johnny B on spot, or the Oriental Cabinet in University of Tartu where Buddhist studies were introduced by Linnart Mäll, or the avant-garde artist group Visarid, where painter Enn Tegova was one of the leading figures.

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Enn Tegova, painter in Tartu

Some guys like for example the poet Aleksander Müller took off wild with the principle of “live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse”. He says these vibes were definitely in the air back at the time, as the surrounding politics were so depressive and left no space for hope.  His large apartment at Supilinn in Tartu became a legendary place of coming-together to listen bootlegged records, read poetry and talk all the shit that had to be spoken, but couldn’t have done in public. His home formed an important social center for free-thinking and free will in the context of Soviet power along its propaganda machine and overall stagnation. The door was always open, there were always people around. There he had a piano that didn’t have any white keys. Meaning, all the keys where covered with cigarette butts black spots! And according to a rumor, Müller started drinking constantly since he was 15, he was a god damn rock’n’roll spirit. He later became a well-known blues musician, but in 1970s he was  involved with psychedelic rock music. 

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Aleksander Müller in front of his legendary old house in Tartu, summer 2012. By the time, he was already pretty week and couldn’t move himself, so he’s being carried by another poet Päärn Hint.

Music making certainly became one of the few sources of joy at the time, or the means to express the hate, the anger against the established system. But this social criticism, of course, had to be always served hidden, hidden behind the lines of poetry, in metaphors, as the punishments could become very real.

At some point in 1970s, Müller Sass joined a psychedelic rock band Suuk from Tartu as a singer. Suuk has often been compared to The Doors, as it sounds tripping, rebellious, destructive and liberating at the same time. But different from Jim Morrison who actually put in practice his principle of “live fast, die young” belonging to the “club 27”, Sass lived much longer.  He passed away just recently on the 4th of July 2013. We all knew his soul was going straight to the wide heavenly cosmos and this comet deserved some celebration.

We were actually the very last ones who interviewed him last summer for the Soviet hippies exhibition and documentary. And oh, this rock’n’roll legend seemed so very happy to chill around on a wheelchair at the massive exhibition opening, to enjoy his 4cl of cognac, and to experience that finally his bitter pain and sorrow and the inner burning sunshine has made it to the local cultural history, right there at Estonian National Museum!

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At the opening of the exhibition “Soviet hippies: The Psychedelic Underground of 1970s Estonia”. Photo by Merilyn Püss

Listen to the full album of Suuk recorded in 1976 in Tartu here with comments in Estonian from Aleksander Müller. The band Suuk, as the host of the broadcast Jaan Tootsen says, is a band which by all parameters of the time could not have possibly existed in Soviet Union. And no-one would even believe that the band existed, if we didn’t have this remarkable recording from 1976 that only happened only coincidentally when Estonian Radio stereo-bus came down to Tartu to take this recording.

Rest in peace and in rock’n’roll, Aleksander Müller (1947-2013).    IMG_8054

Drugs from Petersburg, politics from Moscow

All the signs were referring that there was a hippie culture in Soviet Union, but not everybody believed it. Not yet.

Introducing two old hippie souls from Tallinn – Aleksandr Dormidontov and Jaakko Hallas. 

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Aleksandr Dormidontov, my favourite Sass, trouble with hair since 1968

The directress of Estonian National Museum, for example, encouraged us to meet some prolific cultural researchers, to ask guidance and material. As soon as we had another shooting day planned – as with extremely limited budget, we often had to make 15h working days – we booked the morning for an interview Linnar Priimägi. He’s a recognized art and cultural researcher, but for our mild distress he rather announced that hippie culture was apparent in America only, certainly not here, and then he even added, sounding almost like an apostel, that “it will never return.”

I couldn’t take these words.

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Our director of photography Andreas Press, Kiwa, Linnar Priimägi and me

Later on I understood that his rather different understanding from ours was mostly about his rigid definition of what ‘hippie culture‘ is – i.e. living in communes, raising children collectively, dropping lots of acid – all of which indeed was not really apparent in Soviet Union. But which doesn’t necessarily mean that the ‘hippie culture’ was totally absent here. More so, hippie culture emerged most vividly underground and it was not open to public exposure, as this could have been followed by various sanctions by the Soviet authorities (e.g. dropping out from universities, treatment in mental hospital). And even more so, because Soviet hippie culture is something that has not so far been researched and written much about!

But it was Linnar Priimägi, who together with Ants Juske wrote a manifesto of their generation in 1978. The manifesto known as “Tartu autumn” stated their generation as the generation of indolence – taking the long story short, the outside reality is so ridiculous and painful, that you just don’t care nor feel anything about it anymore. And certainly this attitude was part of the local hippie realm.

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Meeting Aleksandr Dormidontov, the tailor-Sass

But thank god (e.g. Shiva), already in the afternoon we met some of the living proofs of the Soviet hippie culture – Aleksandr Dormidontov and Jaakko Hallas.

Aleksandr Dormidontov, locally known as tailor-Sass was one of the central character of the hippies in Tallinn, who apparently sewed wide trousers for most of the hippies in Soviet Union.  His commune house at Nõmme  with its massive book archive of the ninth generation of Estonian Russians – as this is what he is –  and record collection dangled intellectuals and vagabonds alike. Sometimes, especially around the 1st of May – which became a legendary meeting point of Soviet hippies in Tallinn, to celebrate the launch of the hitch-hiking season – his house was full of more than 100 people, all longhaired, all into rock’n’roll music from all around the whole Sovietico. Sass explains the relations of Tallinn between bigger Russian cities: “Drugs we got from Petersburg, politics came from Moscow.” I also find his speculation about the collapse of the Soviet Union remarkable: “Lenin didn’t invent rock’n’ roll. That was his trouble.”

Sass’ house at Narva street in Tallinn, opposite to the Tallinn University, is usually open for guests. Gosh, this man is so awesome. Especially I like his beard.

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Sass and Jaakko

Jaakko Hallas used to hang out with hippies around 1968-1971 – the time when he experienced emotional high-voltage and enormous inner freedom. His close relationship with hippie world was mainly through his interest in esoterica and Eastern religions. After graduating from university he started learning about everything that was not taught at school or even prohibited. He proudly announces that “Hedonism of the mind is most important.”

As we all sit around the round table, the secret history of the Soviet counter-culture started to leak with some intriguing memories. Sass tells us how once he had a joint in his hand, but had no fire. He then went to ask a lighter from a militia man. The militia just wrinkled his eyebrows murmuring that “This tobacco smells weird…”

Weed was apparently not known as a drug for the authorities back at the time here. So hippies indeed used to smoke quite freely in the cafeterias or on the streets. Only if they had something to smoke – marijuana was certainly not widely available in the 1970s, but it was around, especially when some hippie friends from Petersburg visited Tallinn or someone hitch-hiked as far as Ukraine, Caucasus or Central Asia and brought back a decent handful of weed.

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Our director of sound Björn Norralt, Aleksandr Dormidontov, Kiwa, me, and Jaakko Hallas

By Terje

Completely empty space with souls

I’m still not yet over with the very first session of “fieldworks”, meaning, when me and Kiwa met some of the central spirits of the Tallinn’s hippie underground of the 1970s for the very first time. These were warm starlight nights of august, handicam in the pocket.  As a result of these evenings  with Vladimir Wiedemann and Aare Loit, we kind of started to sense where the hippie dharma would be carrying us. Perhaps we too have already been there, in our own times, with our own means. The road, the time, the political and social situation could be radically different between my generation and those with whom I  choose to create cross-generational friendships, or rather, they just happen, but the direction, the law or dharma seems to be quite the same.

Here’s a short video to get a glimpse of the feel, semi-Estonian-semi-English, pardon. Introducing: Vladimir Wiedemann and Babai

What is the center of the world?

You are the center of the world.

Who is the creater of all this?

You are, Allah.

Traces of the Center of Psychotronics of the Soviet Union

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Vladimir Wiedemann and Aare Loit (Babai)

Vladimir Wiedemann was  largely influenced by Mihkel Ram Tamm who was a great philosopher and big thinker, and whose work eventually took a shape of zero-philosophy. Ram knew many religions, he synthesized a variety of theories describing the science (or rather something at the borderline between science and religion) of nothing. He did this often by using complex schemes and hypotheses. Out of his notes weighing kilograms, among other things, have been published 900-pages masterpiece Theory-Null-Hypothesis.

As I said in an earlier post,  Soviet-time hippies and dissidents gathered frequently at his place, where they made group meditations,  practiced telepathy, digged into guru’s library or helped him with everyday work. Wiedemann in his book referred to  this place at Langermaa as the Center of Psychotronics of the Soviet Union.
One old hippie Aare Loit, commonly now known as Babai, says that Ram eventually become even too popular. Visiting the guru became a trendy thing to do for alternative-minded youth of the whole Soviet Union – and there were so many!  – although they often knew nothing about his zero-philosophy.

There, between the green fields on around 100 kilometer of Tallinn-Pärnu highway we stopped the car and ask advice from a man on a bicycle.   Although Ram moved away from here for already more than 30 years ago, he knew exactly what we were talking about.

“Yeah there was one wise man here, still living,” he said, and instantly disappeared as if he was a ghost himself.

New owners of the house who now have lived here for the past 15 years, for our big surprise, did not know anything about the meaningfulness of this house among Soviet counter-culture. We explained a bit the context, but the man spread his hands.
“We have heard some stories about a witch, but …”
“And how about the current energies of the house? Have you felt anything special?” I was curious.
“I haven’t really thought about it!”

We asked the householder kindly to enter the room. Aare’s and Vladimir’s faces shone with some sparks of nostalgia, though, of course, everything had been completely changed. Along with artists Sandra Jõgeva, Minna Hint, Kiwa, magician Hannes Vanaküla and historian Margus Kiis we sat down in circle on the bright carpet, the way as  they probably did while making group meditations and  discussions. Ram sat in a corner near the stove, now this place was taken by the Aare, as he has the most gray in his hair. We felt the vibrations of the moment, Aare said Buddhist mantra OM MANI PADME HUM.

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Aare Loit, me, Kiwa (holding the book of Mihkel Ram Tamm) and Vladimir Wiedemann in front of the house where Soviet hippies used to gather in 1970s

When  later in the garden we discussed the mystic theories of Ram and asked about the practices held here from Vladimir and Aare, Ram let us know about his presence quite obviously. Suddenly all the cats started singing loud together, souls were freed on the move.

In the magic of the School of Magicians

Estonian artist Sandra Jõgeva once noticed a review in newspaper about a book that was talking about the so-far pretty much silenced down underground of the Soviet Estonia. She ran to the shop and purchased more than ten copy of the novel which was illustrated with magical symbols and leaves of marijuana. All Sandra’s friend consequently found “The School of Magicians” (2008 in Estonian, not yet published in English or Russian, but totally should!) by Vladimir Wiedemann (born in Tallinn, 1955) among the stuff brought by Santa for Chistmas.

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Writer Vladimir Wiedemann and artist Sandra Jõgeva

Few years later Sandra invited the writer, who now lives in London, to Estonia to give a public talk here about Soviet hippie life. Me and Kiwa quickly booked a 3-days date with Wiedemann in Tallinnn, as in our position of great admiration we couldn’t let this legend get away so easily. Vova arrived in Tallinn, necklace of rastaman colors from Ethiopia around his neck and a 9-year-old son, who likes computer games and computer games, by his hand.

As me and Berit had published our psychedelic chef-d’oeuvre, my friends quickly handed me another piece of written psychedelia, more radical that ours. Apparently young people were experimenting with hallucinogens right here at the time which is quite often commonly known as “the dark days of the Soviet time when nothing was available, people were brainwashed and marching all together in blind belief under the huge posters of Lenin and Stalin.” (trying to grasp the stereotype in one sentence)

No, not at all were things as simple  and as black-and-white as that.

For some Soviet hippies the supernal trip experience was magnified with an attempt to fight the Soviet powers with the help of magic. Due to prevalent pohhuism (pohhui directly translated means /along the c*ck/ but in slang also signifies total apathy), ignorance and the lack of choices some more brave and curious long-haired were snuffing cleaning agent called Sopals to get some extra flying dimensions on their reality. Sopals could be bought from the housework utilities shop for 20 kopiki.

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The last bottle of Sopals. From exhibition “Soviet hippies: the Psychedelic Underground of the 1970s Estonia” curated by Kiwa and Terje at Estonian National Museum, march-september 2013

Just like in the West in 1960s-70s, also among the Soviet alternative youth  varios new-age practices and Eastern-influences ideas became popular. These young people grew up listening to the same albums of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Led Zeppelin that made the whole generation in the West go crazy. And the local hippie culture emerged, stating themselves against the values of the little bourgeois, stupid Soviet bureaucracy, inequality, violence and war, praising freedom, love, peace and creativity.

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Vladimir Wiedemann in 1970s in his house in Tallinn

Among many hippies in Estonia and from other states, Estonian philosopher and writer, master of Advaita Vedanta and Platonism, Sri Rama Michael Tamm (1911-2002) became popular. Wiedemann was one of the first to so-called ‘discover’ him and remained his close follower until the guru’s death in 2002 in Boston.

Just like Ram Tamm, who accidentally got stucked in Soviet Union and the Soviet officials kept him here against his will for 15 years, Wiedemann also decided to leave Soviet Union as soon as it became possible. The air wasn’t good enough for meditation. If you open your mind towards the universe, it might get wrong influences from the tense environment, which the Soviet Union certainly was.

So Wiedemann spend a year in South-America, traveled many times in Central Asia and visited his guru in US, before settling down to Berlin for almost 20 years. He’s a polyglot, a world citizen, with his roots in Estonia.

As we walked around the old town of Tallinn with him, visiting the places where Soviet hippies used to hang out and listening to his incredible stories, I could sense his strong energy and sharp mind that’s still shining. Seems like he never gets old.

315952_10150303794651670_3301900_nTogether with Vladimir Wiedemann and his inspirational book