Graffiti took off in USSR alongside breakdancing, which landed in the nation with hip-hop motion pictures brought from the US. Since the New York time frame, the regular picture of the spray painting arts has been pursued and copied repetitively disregard for private and state property, the charm of illegal art, and dedication to be a part of a subculture and to gain authority within it.
Today the status of graffiti in Russia still remains a hazy area. Except for patriotic art, graffiti’s are negligee by the state.
Amid the Perestroika time frame the creating Soviet subcultures were generally segregated from Western impacts: acquiring photos, magazines, and video materials was troublesome, and correspondence with experts was restricted. In those days, new information’s were usually presented to the nation through VHS films like Beat Street and Stylewars who were brought from abroad by companions and relatives. These motion pictures framed a picture of hip-hop as a mix of rap, breakdance, and graffiti. American street culture became the basis for the Soviet school of graffiti and probably defined the lifestyles of young dancers and artists for years to come.
The 90s are frequently called the second wave time: amid this period youngsters from Moscow, Saint Petersburg and different urban areas traveled abroad and learned of a new, barely legal mode of artistic expression and began forming small artistic communities. At that time, the extreme sports festival Nescafe – Pure Energy became the first and most important gathering place for graffiti writers. One of the most popular writers of the era, Anton Make, got into graffiti in the mid-90s and became one of the first to take a spray can to the Moscow subway. Afterward, Make would go on to establish the Partisaning development with Igor Ponosov and Kirill Kto, developing from a graffiti writer into an urban activist and researcher of social interactions.
The 2000s (First Half)
By this time, street gangs had already embraced graffiti as a self-assertion tool, and street drawings lost the political meaning they had during the mid-90s. Leading artists started to set the trends which would last through the next decade: unique artists with distinctive local styles began to pop up, and the base of the Russian graffiti community was mostly formed. The release of the French documentary Dirty Handz (1999) and its sequel (2001) on bombing (a technique of quickly covering large surface areas – trains, subway cars or city streets – with drawings) were important milestones for the development of Russian graffiti and made public transportation tagging popular in the country. In 2001, the first issue of the Russian graffiti magazine Spray It saw the light of day, and a year later the Moscow team ZACHEM!, consisting of Sta, Poze, Misha Most, Kirill Kto, and other artists, released the first Russian-produced video on the bombing, making the technique insanely popular. Even today, bombing remains the most popular graffiti format amongst Russian youth, mostly thanks to its accessibility and the daredevil image formed around bombers.
The 2000s (Second Half)
By this time, many older enthusiasts stopped being an active part of the Russian graffiti community, and the image of graffiti art was now being molded by younger artists who often copied what they saw on the Internet. Maintaining an image as a writer (behavior, appearance, social connections) gained priority over drawing itself.
“Graffiti has ceased to be a chaotic (or organized) protest against its intrinsically antithetic values. Instead, graffiti now aims to contribute to these values (as architectural decoration, ad material, a way to achieve popularity and promote writing styles),” – Graffiti Discourse Notes by the Stena Project.
During this time, street art achieved significant development: certain writers adjusted their styles, stopped simply tagging, and transitioned to creating more complex works aimed at launching a dialogue with a broader audience. Pasha 183 is one example of such a transition.
The 2010s have seen graffiti’s wide diffusion through the Internet, the creation of local streetwear (including clothes designed specifically for writers), and the almost total disappearance of original styles among younger writers.
TAD, a Saint Petersburg graffiti crew, set the goal of becoming the best Russian graffiti team. They gained the support of a Spanish spray paint manufacturer and remained a top team for quite some time. Petr Petro from Zhukovsky and Ilya Slak, the founders of the Aesthetics crew, also deserve mention as active and original writers of this period.
Today in Russia, graffiti artists face the same challenges as everywhere else: works have to become larger and be created more often, styles require refining, and respect within the community has to be earned.
A decrease in the amount of graffiti-related literature was mainly caused by the wide reach of social networks: as writers post their works to Facebook, Instagram, and Behance, the Internet replaces city streets as the place of choice to go to see graffiti. The Internet has also mostly erased differences in local styles: today a writer from Nizhnevartovsk might use exactly the same style as a writer from New Jersey or Berlin.