Youth and Rock in the Soviet Bloc: Youth Cultures, Music, and the State in Russia and Eastern Europe
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.
provocative as the swastika. Indeed, the SED’s panic at and repression of punk’s anarchic behavior was greater than its reaction to far-right extremism. The skinhead movement was seen as a less serious threat than the punks, and, according to Mike Dennis’s research, was afforded greater tolerance by the state. 124 Here again, the political nature of punk was a reflection of the state’s reaction rather than an inherent or cohesive “value” of punk itself. This again highlights the tendency to focus
critics who accused jazz of lacking musical value, negatively influencing young people’s cultural tastes and social behavior, and being sexually provocative, or who attacked it for its foreign origins. 1 A significant feature of this debate was that publications in Yugoslavia were providing the supporters of jazz with space to defend their positions, which reflected the development of a new, pro-Western cultural politics in Yugoslavia since 1950. Just after World War II, the Communist Party of
and Entertainment Music” in 1954 to address this pressing need. 17 In the GDR, cultural officials worked on an “Order on the Practice of Entertainment and Dance Music,” developed and meticulously elaborated starting in 1954 and then introduced in September 1955. It recognized the importance of popular music and sought to improve quality, lift the population’s tastes, fight against “decadent” music, and establish greater oversight over popular music offerings. 18 As a sign of renewed focus, the
Lviv, 7 June 2004. 71. Babiy, interview. 72. Balaban, interview, 2004; Balaban, interview, 2007. 73. Morozov, interview. 74. DALO, f. P-3, op. 47, spr. 27, ark. 29. 75. Lemko, L’viv ponad use, 154. On young people who spray painted graffiti on city walls, see Ihor Chornovol, “Halyts’ki hipi,” L’vivs’ka hazeta (Lviv) 3 June 2005, www.gazeta.lviv.ua/articles/2005/06/03/5767/, accessed 9 June 2005; and Ida Vors, “Kudy klykala surma? Ukrains’ki hipi: Patsiient skorish mertvyi, anizh zhyvyi,” Politika
Moreover, as the officer of the Committee of State Security (KGB) cited above noted, interest in Western goods highlighted Moscow’s privileged status leading to envy among people elsewhere. Further, he argued that this new awareness of the gap between the Soviet capital and the provinces became a basis for various local “nationalisms” and anti-Moscow feelings all over the Soviet Union during the 1980s and 1990s. 1 Although recent cultural studies implicitly present a history of the Westernization