Notes from Underground: Rock Music Counterculture in Russia

By Thomas Cushman | Go to book overview

Preface

This book is a sociological case study of a
community of rock musicians in St.
St.Petersburg, Russia. It traces the experi
ences of members of this community from the time when rock music
made its first entrance into Soviet society in the 1960s, through the
period of cultural renaissance brought on by glasnost and perestroika in
the late 1980s, and into the present period of rapid capitalist reformation
of post-Soviet society. It is a study of a Russian musical counterculture, a
community united by a common way of life and a common commit
ment to the production and dissemination of rock music as a means of
cultural opposition and as a means for claiming autonomous space and
identity in I present a sociological account of rock coun
terculture in St. St.Petersburg as a poignant case study which dramatizes
the struggle of human expressivity and agency in the face of the chang
ing social circumstances, each of which posed a different set of con
straints on cultural expression. During the socialist period, this con
straint occurred by conscious design, the product of the calculated
efforts of political elites and state culture managers to plan and control
all aspects of social and cultural life in the Soviet Union. In the present,
however, constraint manifests itself in new and unanticipated ways
through the operation of market forces which have been borne into
post-communist Russia as a result of Western capitalist "shock ther
apy."

From the time it made its first entrance into Soviet society the 1960s through the Brezhnev era, rock music was a cultural practice which was rigidly circumscribed by a bureaucratic state apparatus specifically designed to regulate the production and dissemination of such autonomous forms of modern culture. Yet, only a short time after the ascension of Mikhail Gorbachev to the post of General Secretary of the Communist Party, rock music emerged as a freely expressible modern art form. By 1989, rock musicians -- at least in major urban centers of the country such as St. St.Petersburg -- were allowed to make and play music freely without the harassment and interference of the state which were the hallmarks of earlier years. During the glasnost period, even the

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