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Meanings of Jazz in State Socialism


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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Negotiated Spaces: Jazz in Moscow after the Thaw


Abstract Focussing on the Soviet Union, this microstudy provides an insight into several aspects of jazz life in Moscow during the 1960s. It considers the official discourse on jazz in the Composers’ Union, the opening and transformation of jazz cafés like the Molodezhnoe and the Aelita, the staging of the first jazz festivals in the Russian capital, culminating in a climax at the end of the decade, and the beginnings of jazz education in specialist music schools in Moscow. The contribution demonstrates that jazz during this period became an integral part of Soviet cultural life. This was by no means a straightforward process, but meant that compromises had to be found between those active in the jazz scene and those representing the state. What the outcome reveals is that state socialism was able to both suppress and integrate deviant social groups.

Late Stalinist cultural politics, as they manifested themselves after the death of Andreĭ Zhdanov in 1948, had repeatedly tried to ban jazz and to replace it with other forms of music. The death of Joseph Stalin in 1952 and the subsequent review of Stalinist policies also led to the status of jazz being reconsidered. From now on cultural politicians started to think about possibilities of integrating jazz into the cultural system of the Soviet Union. This issue was discussed intensively among intellectuals and cultural politicians during the 1960s, but always in closed circles and behind closed doors without participation of the public. Nonetheless, jazz...

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