USSR Skate Museum

Today we will tell you not about a typical Minsk attractions, but rather about an unusual collection that has grown into a real museum. Gleb Benciovsky - the head of the Minsk skateboard school Destroyer, a skater with great experience and a person who, on his own, assembled the skate museum of the USSR.

Gleb, how did your project “USSR Skate Museum” start, where did the idea come from and how long has it been in existence?

The idea was born long ago, at the turn of 2004-2005. Its essence was to enable young and growing skaters of that period (already far enough even from the “first wave” of post-Soviet skateboarding) to see the “roots” of our still “Soviet” skateboarding, showing how it all began. It is very difficult to truly love something that you don’t know the history of, even despite the development of the skate industry.

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The first board in the collection (as it is not symbolic) was the legendary RPOM with "bottoms" from the Taiwanese "fish", and later, after digging in the "storehouses", I brought to light a few more artifacts. Friends, “friends of friends” and just “experienced” people, as far as possible, helped. Initially, I planned to put together only boards that were popular among skaters in the Soviet Union, but the topic turned out to be much deeper ...

So, 10 years ago, in the summer of 2005, the concept of the “USSR Skate Museum” was born and formed.

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How many exhibits are presented and what period does the collection cover?

Today, 102 skateboards are exhibited in the Skate Museum of the USSR, several more skateboards are waiting for delivery to Minsk. All skateboards are unique, original and conditionally divided into three subgroups: skateboards made in the USSR, home-made skateboards, components and skateboards of foreign production, magically falling into the territory of the USSR.

If we talk about skateboards made in the USSR, which are the main focus, they all get into the collection by determining the uniqueness of the configuration of suspensions and wheels, in accordance with the available documentation and information. For example, if the decks of one model do not differ in size, but only in the color of painting (it ended in green at the factory - we will paint it yellow), but all components are identical, such a skateboard goes to the reserve. If the model differs in equipment (for example, a change in the supplier factory, or a wheel model), or, as is the case with the Leningrad "turns”- the composition and color of the deck plastic used - of course they fall into the main collection.

As for the "homemade" - it's just a paradise for the collector, after all, each homemade skateboard is unique by default. Foreign boards are also a matter of pride.

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For example, I am pleased to see in the collection the original staff from Powell-Peralta, Gullwing, Tracker, Gordon & Smith, the first pro-model of Mike Vallely from World Industries, or the "name" board of the first European rider Santa Cruz - Klaus Grabke, not to mention the "fish" Eddie Ritegui from Alva skates using "slick" technology, or some real plastboards from the 70s, including the iconic one California FreeFormer.

What can we say about the "babies": the first German RollBrettl, or American Zippie Surf Boardstraight out of the 60s.

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Soviet skateboarding, although it had its own history, but, whatever one may say, it would not have appeared if there were no “overseas” prerequisites for it. In addition to skateboards, a large number of unique artifacts, archival photo and video materials have been collected.

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The “paper” component of the “USSR Skate Museum” presents both originals and copies of drawings for self-made skateboards, tutorials, specialized publications, posters and souvenirs from competitions, thematic magazines published in the RSFSR, the Ukrainian SSR, the Latvian SSR, interesting materials from republican and all-Union newspapers and magazines, and even skateboard passports. A "child theme" can be considered a rich archive of the first post-Soviet journals. Its "highlight" can be considered a selection of Saratov "Skate News", a collection of books on the history of world skateboarding and foreign specialized publications.

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The museum presents exhibits from the late 70s - early 90s. Based on information from primary sources, we can say that the first skateboards began to be produced in Soviet Estonia around 1978, and the USSR legally ceased to exist at the end of 1991 - hence the period. But, even before the start of mass industrial production of skateboards in the USSR (early-mid-80s of the last century), information about the outlandish Asphalt Surfers and Skats had already appeared on the pages of youth magazines, and some lucky ones could even try to ride on roller skates. boards brought from abroad, or try to make them yourself.

The first board appeared under my feet in 1988, and it was the heyday of the "second wave" of Soviet skateboarding.

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Perestroika slightly opened the “iron curtain” and it became possible to receive information, including from foreign tourists (for example, in 1988 in a pioneer camp near Minsk, thanks to my good knowledge of English, I was in the same international detachment with the Dutch, one of whom - Serge, was a skater, loved heavy music and brought several magazines with him ...).

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After the “collapse of the USSR”, its echoes in the form of skateboards sold in Sports Goods, or homemade products, still reminded of themselves, but by the mid-90s, they had almost completely disappeared in the “stash”, replaced by boards of the “new school”.

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How did you manage to amass such a large collection?

Great help is provided by friends, acquaintances and strangers, but close in spirit people. I have extensive correspondence with "key" skaters, working with archives. I am friends with, or familiar with, many skaters of the "second wave" of Soviet skateboarding. Fortunately, we are all practically the same age. When traveling, I regularly visit flea markets in different cities and countries. Skateboarding, like music, has no boundaries and this has been proven time and time again. I am very familiar with Jack Smith, the curator Morro Bay Skateboard Museum (California, USA). In his Museum there are several exhibits-gifts from me, but I have from him. The same goes for Jurgen Blumlein, probably the only curator in Europe Berlin Skateboard Museum, with whom we met and, subsequently, met, thanks to the “tip” of the Russian “oldovik” Denis Markhasin.

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Are there any analogues, or is the Skate Museum of the USSR unique?

USSR Skate Museum has no analogues in the post-Soviet space, both in terms of the number of exhibits and their uniqueness, although some enthusiastic collectors have appeared in Russia and Ukraine. Including thanks to my work.

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Have you held exhibitions of the Skate Museum of the USSR in other cities of Belarus, countries?

We exhibited twice in Moscow, as part of the exhibition "Faces & Laces" and contest 365 practice days. In each of the trips, the exhibition had a unique format, even in terms of the concept of indoor and outdoor, and both times caused a wide response. Everything was done with pure enthusiasm. A huge help in finding proper financial support for the projects was provided by Denis Markhasin and Pasha Sorokin, iconic Russian skaters of the 90s. And it turned out to be a really important experience.

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Currently, we are considering the possibility of holding an exhibition in the cultural capital of Russia - St. Petersburg, which has a rich "skateboard" history. There are several more projects, but they have been shelved for now. In Belarus, in particular, in Minsk, I really want to hold a large and large-scale exhibition. But so far, no clear proposals have been received. And I cannot finance such projects from my own pocket.

I tried to communicate with the organizers of the “Back to the USSR” exhibition, but, at the time of negotiations, the concept of their exhibition had already been formed, and Soviet skateboarding could not be competently integrated there. Although, having visited the exhibition, I was pleased with what I saw.

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Where is the USSR Skate Museum located? Who can visit it?

At the moment, almost the entire exposition is at our home. Of course, there is no longer enough space and you have to “squeeze”. Only friends and acquaintances can visit it, and I am very grateful to my wife for understanding.

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What difficulties do you face in the work of the USSR Skate Museum and how can you fix them?

It is difficult to name any obvious difficulties. First of all, probably, the lack of space. Several times I went out with a proposal to the relevant organizations, but, unfortunately, so far I have not received an adequate response. Also, certain “difficulties” can probably be called “flea hucksters”, who, learning that I would like to purchase this or that artifact not just like that, but for the “USSR Skate Museum”, inflate the prices of their lots to sky-high heights, counting on the fact that I am financed by the state, or a charitable foundation. Difficulties begin to arise with the search for archival materials. Not all libraries have newspapers and magazines that interest me, even if only for the fact thatto make copies. But, all difficulties can be solved if there are those who are ready to help! And there are many such people! 

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Will the exhibition of the Skate Museum of the USSR be of interest to people far from skateboarding? Or is it a highly specialized topic?

As the practice of holding traveling exhibitions in Russia has shown, the target audience is very wide. A huge number of young people who grew up in the USSR went through the classic stages: break, rock, skate, velo and moto, because all these “informal” (as it was commonly called then, and now there are still orthodox people with a similar lexicon) youth subcultures were enough are close to each other. It will be very interesting to remember the fun times of youth, looking at artifacts, finding out what you rode.

Lambada from all windows and Monsters of Rock in Moscow, Turkish sweaters and Pyramids, or worn jeans that are not “first youth” in which they are already allowed to walk and Bermuda shorts, a rare bottled Zhigulevskoye, or expensive Pepsi. Sneakers, or “lead crosses”, fingerless leather gloves “like Slater’s” and denim jackets ... Ripo, Rula, APOM, Skat, Sprint, Sport, Start, Leader, Turns and Taira, Rolling and Zafak, Meteor and even LUAZ . Not counting the nameless "skateboards for adults" ... And how much love was hidden in the popular names: Tortilla, Crazy Cucumber, Fish, Soap Dish, Yellow Coffin.

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The current generation of skaters will definitely be interested in the “grandfather skateboard” boards, not to mention the “old school” fashion, expressed in many attributes of the street lifestyle.

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What are your plans for the development of the USSR Skate Museum? Do you see a day when anyone can visit it?

Plans-plans... Stationary premises of the required area, where we can deploy both a permanent exhibition and hold thematic exhibitions and specialized events, financial support from interested organizations and individuals and, as a result, a great opening of the first ever “USSR Skateboarding Museum”!

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