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Popular Music in Communist and Post-Communist Europe

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Edited By Jan Blüml, Yvetta Kajanová and Rüdiger Ritter

Through selected topics, the book presents an up-to-date and comprehensive view of the popular music of communist and post-communist Europe. The studies introduce new sources, discuss transformations of the institutional background of popular music of the given geopolitical sphere, its social, cultural-political, or artistic conditions. Thanks to the time span of nearly thirty years since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the authors have in many ways revised or supplemented traditional post-communist perceptions of the issues in question. This is being done with respect to the genres such as jazz, rock, pop, singer-songwriters, hip-hop, or White Power Music, as well as across the whole region from the former Yugoslavia through Central European states to the countries of the former Soviet Union.

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Unofficial Rock Music in the Late Soviet Union and Soviet Officialdom: With Friends Like This Who Needs Enemies?

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Abstract: It is a commonly accepted wisdom that rock music was denied recognition in the USSR for political and ideological reasons. The reality, however, was much more complicated. This chapter looks into the immensely convoluted and impenetrable bureaucratic system of concert organization that existed in the USSR and which, even with best intentions, did not allow ‘amateur’ rock groups to properly function within the legal framework. It also reveals the stubborn resistance rock’s potential recognition met from the official ‘creative’ unions.

Keywords: rock music; Soviet music; Russian rock; Soviet rock; late Soviet Union history; cultural history; Soviet underground; Soviet cultural policies; USSR; Soviet Union; Russian culture; Soviet culture

Soviet authorities were by far not the first in the long history of Russia to control and influence culture, and to define what was good and bad for the public interest. They inherited the age-old traditions of the Russian Empire in its desire to educate masses and imbue them with certain cultural values. Peter the Great in his ambition to make Russian ‘European’ persistently tried to counter lowly mass taste with lofty ‘high’ European culture. On the other hand, the fear of revolutions, often bred by ideas borrowed from books, was especially and acutely felt in Russia since the Decembrist Revolt of 1825.

The Soviet government was prompted to resume the all-too-familiar policies of the pre-revolutionary Russia in controlling and guiding culture. The new ‘socialist culture’, on the one hand, had to serve the...

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