Notes from Underground: Rock Music Counterculture in Russia

By Thomas Cushman | Go to book overview

2
Stories from Underground: The Origins of St. Petersburg Rack Music Counterculture

We always find something, eh, Didi, to give us the impression that we exist?

-- Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot


Origins and Lives

The central task of this chapter is to explore the formation and the significance of the rock musical counterculture of St. Petersburg, roughly during the period between the early 1960s and the mid-1980s. The emergence of the Petersburg counterculture is a result of the intersection of an important Western cultural form -- rock music -- and the particular forms of consciousness which emerged in the course of Soviet historical development. Rock music came to the Soviet Union over thirty years ago, not long after its appearance in the West. This rather long history in a supposedly "closed" society raises a paradoxical issue: If Soviet society was such a totalitarian, closed society (the terms most often used by Western propagandists to describe the USSR), how was it possible that a vibrant musical counterculture -- much less any form of counterculture -- could develop at all?

The answer to this question lies in the examination of two intersecting cultural processes, one global and one local. In the post-war era there was a tremendous acceleration in the growth and diffusion of the

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