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Meanings of Jazz in State Socialism


Edited By Gertrud Pickhan and Rüdiger Ritter

During the Cold War, jazz became a cultural weapon that was employed by both sides to advance their interests. This volume explores the history and roles of jazz in Poland, the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the Soviet Union, and the Baltic States by means of several case studies. The American administration attempted to destabilize the political systems of the Eastern Bloc countries, while the powers responsible for culture in the Eastern Bloc countries tried to curtail the US propaganda campaign. This resulted in distinct jazz traditions and jazz scenes, each governed by a distinct behavioural codex, as well as official responses in each of the Eastern Bloc countries.
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From ‘Jazz in Poland’ to ‘Polish Jazz’


Abstract Polish jazz should be regarded as a complex socio-cultural rather than just musical phenomenon. The contribution to this volume traces the development of jazz, a music style attractive to Polish musicians and listeners because of its Western character, into a music representing freedom, independence and modernity, in short, a music synonymous with an anti-communist attitude. It is argued that the period 1945–1960 was pivotal for the development of the jazz scene in Poland and the growth in popularity of jazz itself. In Poland, jazz has been perceived both as an inspiring artistic enterprise and an important cultural alternative, which explains why it continues to play such an important role in the country’s national identity construction and cultural diplomacy today.

Jazz cannot be separated from the era of industrialisation and urban civilisation; it is a part of this, its echo, its poetry. So if it is not possible to suppress it, to shut it down, to kill it, as the hardworking boys from Po Prostu had wanted – then one must do something else, and that is: establish Polish jazz

A suggestion from


With these words the Polish musicologist and writer Stefan Kisielewski (pseudonym Kisiel) ended one of his feature pages in Tygodnik Powszechny in 1951. It was part of a debate on how popular music acted as a role model for young people, which was being carried out by the press at that time. Even though this contribution...

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