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Political Music

Legitimization and Contestation

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Edited By Tomasz Bichta and Anna Szwed-Walczak

In the 12 chapters of this book the authors argue for the universal presence of music in public space and social relations. The examples of American, British, Hungarian, Polish and Russian music serve to elucidate two functions of political music, that of legitimizing and contesting political power. Both satirical songs with their ironic commentary on specific events and people as well as protest songs undermining the system corroborate the universal character of the legitimizing and delegitimizing function of music. The book is addressed to readers interested in countercultural movements and politically engaged music, especially to students of political studies, sociology and cultural studies.

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Affiliating with the Russian Shanson:1 The Culture of Protest or the Propaganda of an Oppressive Power?

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Krystsina Kostseva2

Abstract: In my paper, I analyse a set of 18 Russian “criminal” or “prisoners” songs: 8 from the period of the 1960s-80s in the Soviet Union, when the genre existed in the underground culture, and 10 songs from the 1990s, when the genre became commercialized and one of the most popular and most often consumed in Russia at that time. I examine the genre of “criminal” song (Russian blatnaya pesnya) in a framework of Sociological Discourse Analysis and describe values expressed in the song lyrics of both periods applying the theory of Systemic Functional Linguistics. By conducting my analysis, I aim to show which interpersonal meanings are formed by values in order to find out how the music of the subculture became the music of the masses and why the wide audience in the 1990s Russia and neighbouring countries affiliated with the genre of blatnaya pesnya.

Keywords: blatnaya pesnya, post-Soviet era, criminal songs, Russian shanson

The Russian Shanson is a concept familiar almost to everyone in the post-Soviet area. Still, all attempts to unambiguously define this phenomenon of Russian culture during the period of the 90s – early 2000s are met with criticism, disagreement and further discussions. There are a few examples of how ←47 | 48→the Russian Shanson was described: the soundtrack of modern Russia,3 a mode of life,4 blatnyak or blatnaya pesnya,5 prison romance,6 etc.

One of the most common definitions of the Russian Shanson...

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