Rocking the State: Rock Music and Politics in Eastern Europe and Russia

Rocking the State: Rock Music and Politics in Eastern Europe and Russia

Rocking the State: Rock Music and Politics in Eastern Europe and Russia

Rocking the State: Rock Music and Politics in Eastern Europe and Russia


"Of the many avenues for expressing dissident viewpoints in communist societies, rock music - with its broad appeal among young people - was one of the most effective. Although there were rock groups that sang the praises of communism, other groups struck the pose of "rock rebels," assailing the system through their ribald lyrics and raucous music. Communist regimes generally had a difficult time adjusting to rock music, and some, such as those in Czechoslovakia and Romania, never did accept the new genre. Others, such as the East German government, tried to control and monitor rock by requiring musicians and DJs alike to pass tests on Marxist ideology. Other strategies included censoring lyrics, record covers, and attire; insisting on haircuts for band members; and fussing about jewelry and other adornments worn by rockers. The authorities knew that although these bands could not overthrow the state, they could sing up a storm, and, indeed, rock the state. Bringing together some of the world's leading authorities on rock music under communism, this book analyzes the rise of specific rock groups throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, examining the broader social culture in which they operated and evaluating the political ramifications of their popularity." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Most readers of this book will have had at most a fleeting acquaintance with the music of some of the groups described in this book. Groups such as Laibach (from Slovenia), Borghesia (Slovenia), Pankow (the GDR), and Gorky Park (USSR) have concentrated on the Western market and have acquired followings in the United States and Western Europe. Other artists and groups, such as Boris Grebenshikov and Aquarium (USSR), Sergei Kuryokhin (USSR), Goran Bregović and White Button (Yugoslavia), and Plastic People of the Universe (Czechoslovakia), have also seen some Western exposure. But for the most part, the rock music of that part of the world is terra incognita to Westerners. So too is the story of their uneasy coexistence with communist authorities from the time that rock first appeared until the collapse of communism in 1989. This book aims to fill that vacuum.

There have been other studies of rock music under communism before—notably, Timothy Ryback's 1990 volume, Rock Around the Bloc, and Artemy Troitsky's earlier popular treatment of the Soviet scene in Back in the USSR. But this is the first scholarly attempt to treat systematically all the countries and regions of the western USSR and Eastern Europe, including Yugoslavia, Ukraine, and Belarus.

The coverage in this book is comprehensive. Omitted are only Albania and Romania (except for brief mention in Chapter 1). In Albania, there is no rock scene of any importance, and in Romania, such promising beginnings as were evinced in the 1970s withered away under the cultural suppression and economic strangulation of the late Ceauşescu regime. All the other countries of Eastern Europe are treated in this book. In addition, there are separate chapters devoted to rock in Russia/the USSR, rock in Ukraine, and rock in Belarus. The fascinating rock scenes in Estonia and Latvia are discussed in the context of broader developments in Chapter 9.

Bringing this book to fruition has been a difficult task, and it could not have been accomplished without the help of certain individuals. I am indebted, in the first place, to Margaret Brown for translating the chap-

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