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.
and proto-punks in the West, the Anarchy symbol was far more prevalent in the East German scene. Not only did the swastika bring with it complexities of addressing Germany’s Nazi past, with which young East Germans had direct familial and historical links (Uwe, a punk featured in the 1983 Observer article, says of his SS grandfather, “[T]hey hanged him too, the Nazi shite”). 122 Sporting the symbol of Nazism, the history of which the SED prided itself on its disassociation, particularly in
Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, trans. and ed. Richard Nice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984). 24. Sarah Thornton, Club Cultures: Music, Media, and Subcultural Capital (Cambridge: Polity, 1995). Others have argued for dispensing with the term “subculture” altogether. They maintain that it assumes that there are homogeneous, tightly bound groups practicing classbased resistance. See Andy Bennett and Keith Kahn-Harris, eds., After Subculture:
as an alternative basis for a legitimate postwar masculinity. Edele, “Strange Young Men.” 14. A. S. Kozlov, “Kozel na sakse”: I tak vsiu zhizn’ (Moscow: Vagrius, 1998), 79; V. I. Slavkin, Pamiatnik neizvestnomu stiliage (Moscow: “Artist. Rezhiser. Teatr,’’ 1996), 5. 15. “Stiliaga,” Krokodil, 10 March 1949. According to one former stiliaga, the “Westernized” Soviet youth considered the term “an insulting nickname,” instead calling each other chuvaki: Artemy Troitsky, Back in the USSR: The True
76 While they shared an interest in blues rock guitar artists like Jimi Hendrix, even planning a gathering, a “session,” in his memory in 1977, their choice of music tended to be Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and other hard rock groups that gained popularity after the turbulent counterculture of the late 1960s. By contrast, the hippie graffiti art at Lychakiv Cemetery featured portraits of Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon and the names of such groups as Cream, Mothers of Invention, and the Doors, those
generally tried on an everyday level to deny this to young people. Young people who wanted to represent themselves as autonomous persons had to choose from fragmented identities, built up in a discursive space created by state bodies. Thus they tended to personify themselves through images created by the official discourse. In socialist Hungary, they could speak about themselves as being jampec or later as being members of a galeri. Studies on postmodernism have ascribed an important role to the