Youth and Rock in the Soviet Bloc: Youth Cultures, Music, and the State in Russia and Eastern Europe
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Youth and Rock in the Soviet Bloc explores the rise of youth as consumers of popular culture and the globalization of popular music in Russia and Eastern Europe. This collection of essays challenges assumptions that Communist leaders and Western-influenced youth cultures were inimically hostile to one another.
While initially banning Western cultural trends like jazz and rock-and-roll, Communist leaders accommodated elements of rock and pop music to develop their own socialist popular music. They promoted organized forms of leisure to turn young people away from excesses of style perceived to be Western. Popular song and officially sponsored rock and pop bands formed a socialist beat that young people listened and danced to. Young people attracted to the music and subcultures of the capitalist West still shared the values and behaviors of their peers in Communist youth organizations. Despite problems providing youth with consumer goods, leaders of Soviet bloc states fostered a socialist alternative to the modernity the capitalist West promised.
Underground rock musicians thus shared assumptions about culture that Communist leaders had instilled. Still, competing with influences from the capitalist West had its limits. State-sponsored rock festivals and rock bands encouraged a spirit of rebellion among young people. Official perceptions of what constituted culture limited options for accommodating rock and pop music and Western youth cultures. Youth countercultures that originated in the capitalist West, like hippies and punks, challenged the legitimacy of Communist youth organizations and their sponsors.
Government media and police organs wound up creating oppositional identities among youth gangs. Failing to provide enough Western cultural goods to provincial cities helped fuel resentment over the Soviet Union s capital, Moscow, and encourage support for breakaway nationalist movements that led to the Soviet Union s collapse in 1991. Despite the Cold War, in both the Soviet bloc and in the capitalist West, political elites responded to perceived threats posed by youth cultures and music in similar manners. Young people participated in a global youth culture while expressing their own local views of the world.
Virus X demonstrate the contempt for Staats-Rock bands: GDR rock scene you hang me by the neck GDR rock scene I hear your corniness no longer The Puhdys are soon long dead, I want to hear something new. 75 The professionalism of Staats-Rock bands, wrought by technical virtuosity and attaining permission to perform and record from the state, required a level of engagement which punks were unwilling and unable to do. The antiprofessional ethos central to British punk, perhaps best exemplified by
with the Party: Andrzej Panufnik and Stalinist Poland” in The Polish Review 54, no. 3 (2009): 271–88. 13. Witold Rudziński, “Pieśń masowa,” in Kultura Muzyczna Polski Ludowej, 1944–1955, ed. Zofia Lissa and Józef Chomiński (Kraków: PWM, 1957), 226. 14. See also Adrian Thomas, “Your Song Is Mine,” The Musical Times, August 1995, 403–9. Against “Pop-Song” Poison from the West 53 15. ZKP, 12/54, “Protokół nr. 4,” 27 March 1952. The song was first rejected because the melody was considered too
society, may also help explain the generally subdued criticism of stiliagi in the early 1950s. Observers of the Soviet Union usually conceive of the post-Stalin period as a time of liberalization. Indeed, Stalin’s death is considered to mark the end of the anticosmopolitan campaign with the rehabilitation of many of its victims. 30 Though one might expect a corresponding decrease in the rhetoric against “Westernized” youth after Stalin’s death, in fact criticism of stiliagi grew more strident in
on the Black Sea coast inspired millions of Soviet children. As one of them noted in his diary after watching this film the second time, in July 1972, “I want to be like Roman Marchenko to help arrest a spy who was an enemy of my country.” 71 Many years later, the author of that diary still recalled how influential these patriotic Soviet images were for the mental construction of his own self. At the same time, images of films from the “capitalist West” (which were made mostly by leftist,
contribution highlights the importance of regional factors affecting youth cultures in the Soviet bloc. While hippies were viewed as a product of a decadent capitalist Western other, in Poland, its leadership at least allowed some kind of a dialogue in the press between hippies and the state. Communist leaders in western Ukraine in their Komsomol newspaper even refused to call such young people hippies, ignoring the topic or preferring instead the strange epithet of “rag people” in press articles