By Andres Pachon
A. Pachon, a journalist and skateboard addict, is a full-time writer for SHIT® Magazine.
Once skateboarding reached its early peak in the 1980s, everyone wanted to get a piece of the industry, even filmmakers and studios that started to produce movies in which the main subject and content were skateboarding related.
Movies are probably the easiest form of getting a glimpse of a lifestyle and culture, even if some of them were not so good they still intrigued kids all over the world that wanted to get one of those boards that seemed so cool and risky to have. These were some of the first encounters Russia had with the new entertainment form that was destined to become a lifestyle.
Post Soviet Union Russia was something out of a spy novel as mots of you could figure, the whole “I’m being watch by the government” thing was very real and far from being over once the wall was brought down. However, there was a thriving and almost underground skateboarding scene that always managed to get their hands on skateboarding gear even before you were able to get any SHIT® from the outside! One of these dudes is Gleb Bentsiovski, founder of the “Скейт-Музей СССР” the one and only Skate Museum of the USSR.
Bentsiovski started skating at a very young age, as early as the late ’70s and the first skate shop in Russia opened in 1999, so you might get a little bit of how badass these dudes were back then by creating their own gear or getting it as contraband in many occasions.
Gleb has dedicated almost all of his life to skateboarding and started collecting items, DIY boards, Magazines, Independent publications, signs, photo and video archives, and more! that tell the before and after of Russia from the perspective of a skateboarder.
The period of the main sections of the museum on display covers the 2 eras of soviet skateboarding: the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1990s (from the first mention of skateboards in the Soviet press and the beginning of the industrial production of skateboards in the USSR to the legal collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the "era of Soviet skateboarding")
This dude is not only an avid old school skateboarder, but also ran a skate shop, taught a skate school, and served as the head of the Belarusian Skateboarding Federation! By 2005 he had already been collecting items and memorabilia, but what motivated him the most is that kids came to his shop after breaking a board to get a new one like it was no problem, he felt that Russian youth needed to know its roots and maybe even become be more attached to a “simple piece of wood” as he did back in the early days.
He also noticed that current boards (having a standard model) look almost the same, and missed the beauty and amazement he used to get with old DIY boards with all kinds of crazy shapes and sizes, he felt the need to show his fellow skateboarders the very particular history of skateboarding in this part of the planet, that as in many other places in the world, could be considered unique and worthy of documentation for future generations.
The Skate Museum of the USSR stands out for many reasons, one of them is the way that it’s laid out since it not only contains Russian history but also has departments dedicated to specific aspects his founder is personally interested in. A world skate history department, a history of Brazilian skateboarding, Soviet history, the Soviet DIY boards department that he called “Gleaming the Cube,” (like the movie), and the last department dedicated to art and skateboarding which he denominated “Skateboarding as an art form” that features old used up boards that were turned into art objects for the delight of the museum visitors.
more than 700 artifacts in the museum, 300 of which are boards are sure to provide you with an afternoon of skateboarding world knowledge and a chance to see some unique and weird SHIT®!
There you have it my dudes and dudettes, it is awesome to see how countries came to find their skateboarding love story, wouldn’t it be great if EVERY country had their own skateboarding museum?!
Read also: Musical Evolution Within Skateboarding