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.
ties with the United States during the Cold War by the beginning of the 1960s had fueled improved material conditions that made it possible for young people to engage in a culture of consumption and leisure not seen before. In the United States, which had not seen the level of carnage Europe had during World War II, these rising standards of living had affected young people a decade earlier, leading to the teenager as an important consumer and social category already by the mid-1950s. In Eastern
resources on light industry, as youth clubs and sport events serviced many people at once without the need to shift major economic plans, while at the same time inculcating official values. This campaign formed part of the Cold War contest between the superpowers in the field of appeasing consumption demands, thus earning legitimacy among the population. By shaping consumption desires, the Khrushchevian state endeavored to ensure that young people did not long for consumption goods that the
i Kul’tura (Kyiv) 24–30 March 2000, 36. The website for L’vivs’ka hazeta has since closed and is no longer accessible. 76. Iuriy Peretiatko, L’vivs’kyi rok 1962–2002 (Lviv: FIRA-liuks, 2002), 9. Only Rock ’n’ Roll? 99 77. Oleh Olisevych et al., “‘Iakshcho svitovi bude potribno, ia viddam svoie zhyttia ne zadumaiuchys’—zarady svobody’: Interv’iu z Olehom Olisevychem,” IY: Nezalezhnyi kul’ turolohichnyi chasopys (Lviv) 24 (2002): 141 (Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin), 151–52 (Hendrix); Lemko, L’viv
writing a novel about Hungarian youth. Police-prepared, strictly confidential reports in the Interior Ministry strove for the same reason to identify extreme right-wing actions among the Great Tree people. To that extent, the KISZ and the media (from Magyar Ifjúság to Kék Fény) were writing a novel about the Great Tree people. Also, the police could be seen as “moral entrepreneurs,” representing “hooligans” as a force menacing the interests and values of society and thereby acquiring a
affected their choice of clothing, behavior, and lifestyle, as it did in the West. Dancing to rock and roll music, for example, signified a challenge to accepted modes of social interaction and the prescribed collectivist function of music. 30 For the SED, the behavior of young people under the influence of Western music and culture was not just incompatible with the socialist project, but entirely alien to the “nature” of young people in the GDR. For example, the SED did not recognize the term