Drugs, Big Hair and Communism: Belgrade Nightlife in the 1980s


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Drugs, Big Hair and Communism: Belgrade Nightlife in the 1980s

This article originally appeared on VICE Serbia

Considering that just a decade later former Yugoslavia fell apart in a series of wars that killed hundreds of thousands and sent millions away from their homes, it's no wonder that in Serbia the 1980s are viewed through a rather nostalgic lens.

It was a time when Western influences – punk, new wave, big hair and Rubik's cubes – were beginning to push back on our deep-seated communist principles. For a while, it felt that parties and gigs were taking place in every other corner of Belgrade. As Serbian photographer Miladin Jelicic "Jela" puts it: " The 1980s in Belgrade were not golden, they were silver."


I meet up with Jela and his wife, Nadja, at their home in Belgrade. They were both integral parts of the scene back then. Between 1982 and 1988, Jela would take his camera everywhere he went. The three of us go through his endless photo archive – there's images of people dancing, hugging, singing, posing sexily or making silly faces. Many of them are now gone now – a big majority fell victims to the largely unrestricted use of alcohol and drugs of the time.

I ask Jela if he thinks people used to be more beautiful when we were younger: "I thought people were beautiful then and they are also beautiful now," he replies. "Nothing is different now, except me – I'm older. We had a lot of fun then, but I'm also having a lot of fun today."

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Miladin Jelicic