This article was first published in The eXile, April 2008
Last summer, The eXile took a safari journey in search of the legendary Gopniki, Russia’s underworld answer to the OGs of South Central, Long Beach, and the Bronx. Those notorious shaven-headed toughs in their kepki-tabletki and track suits, with their bad-assed “cho blya!” faces and their greasy-haired sluts, were our heroes. In our journey through the podmoskovie ghetto of Lubertsy, we discovered tragedy rather than adventure: the Gopniki, those proletarian toughs and kings of the petty crime margins, had all but gone extinct in the Putin Era. They’d survived Stalin’s Terror and flourished under Brezhnev’s Stagnation, but in the end, they were no match against the soul-sucking effects of capitalism and bourgeois Evroremont. Today, the nearly-extinct Gopniki are little more than irony fodder for urban Russian hipsters in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Word has it that this summer, the “Gop-Stop” look is the Cool New Thing.
This issue, we once again find ourselves sounding the funeral bell for another great Russian tradition: the Wall Carpet. Those foreigners who visited Russia in the 1990s would remember the ubiquitous, ornate wall-carpet, with their oriental octagons and polygons and rusty red dyed colors, nailed up proudly in the living room behind the Polish sofa, or in the bedroom pinned up on the wall above the Finnish headboard. Wall Carpets were so common and so “foreign” that you stopped noticing them as soon as you saw a few—the Wall Carpet became just another item in the long “What The Fuck?” list of things-Russian, blending into a world that overwhelmed our Western senses (or in my case, made me feel oddly warm and cozy in those cluttered, pre-remonted, boiling-hot apartments I lived in). In retrospect, looking back from our degraded Evroremonted present-tense, what the Wall Carpet really represented was the magical “F” in the WTF equation, the reckless in-between fucking binges in a time when urban Russians still ricocheted wildly between crude material ambition and abject post-Soviet want.
Then came money, and with it, overexposure to the West. As the Moscow and Petersburg elite got rich and started wising up to European tastes, those Wall Carpets were the first thing to come down, vanishing like a bad memory that they’d rather not talk about.
Today, at the end of the Putin Era, the Russian Wall Carpet has been effectively Evroremonted into extinction. Like the Gopnik, the Wall Carpet has traveled full circle: from a sign of Soviet wealth and taste, to a source of embarrassment and a symbol of provincial backwardness…to today’s final circus act: co-opted by Russia’s emerging Indie hipsters, whose cool kitsch and bourgeois nihilism dealt the final death blow, defusing everything shameful about the Wall Carpet, while simultaneously draining away all that was sensual and feral.
This issue, we at The eXile bid farewell to another uniquely Russian tradition in this increasingly Evroremonted nation.
Goodnight, Sweet Wall Carpet.
Exhibit A: Provincial slut in her natural habitat. Note how her funbags blend harmoniously into the Wall Carpet’s oriental design.
Exhibit B: Professed Deep Purple fan Medvedev probably saw a lot of this coming of age in 1980s Leningrad.
Exhibit C: The Wall Carpet came in handy when you wanted to decorate the separating wall in your komunalka. Young dyevs were particularly impressed.
Exhibit D: Traditionalists still believe in old values like family, a hard day’s pay for a hard day’s work, and a nice comfy Wall Carpet to come home to.
Exhibit E: Indie hipster poses ironically in front of a wall carpet like a hunter displaying her stuffed trophy.
Exhibit F: The generational clash caught on film as an underage babe is stranded living with her Wall-Carpet-Era babushka.
Exhibit G: Even eXile editor Yasha Levine once lived with a Wall Carpet. Here he’s shown as a child in Leningrad, posing with his family and some chinaman. See
Exhibit H: Posing grimly in front of his first wall carpet. Years from now, when he is able to buy a higher-quality wall carpet, he’ll look at this and laugh.
Exhibit I: To attract a good suitor, mothers will dress their daughters up in their finest outfits and have them pose in front of their dowry.
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