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Sekretiki No. 16. Hippie Communes as Summer Camps

There were several attempts to found hippie communes or temporary summer camps in the Soviet Union, with the first short-lived experiments taking place in Altai region and Crimea as early as 1970. One of the few that succeeded was Gauja, on the Baltic Sea coast, not far from Latvia’s capital, Riga, and close to the highway to Tallinn, Estonia.

Founded on the night of the 1978 summer solstice, Gauja managed to outlive the Soviet Union, regardless of regular attacks by the authorities. In the early 1980s, the camp would accommodate up to 2,000 participants every summer, with around 200 campers at a time, and became an important hub of the countercultural network, attracting pilgrimage groups from across the Soviet Union.

Even during its first summer, the campsite had to be relocated after the intervention of the police. The exodus along the seashore in search of a new site, which would become the long-standing future location of Gauja, was captured on camera by one of the participants. The event’s visually dramatic atmosphere, as seen in the film, is generated by the presence of two ceremonial attributes that are carried by the wanderers, an easel and a cross.

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