No. 25-26 - 12/2018:
Pop and Politics in Late Soviet Society

edited by Peter Collmer and Carmen Scheide


Editorial by Carmen Scheide 

Fighting Western Fasion in the Soviet Union: The Komsomol, Westernized Youth, and the Cultural Cold War in the Mid 1950s by Gleb Tsipursky 

This paper proposes that the mid-1950s drive to combat extreme devotion to western fashion constituted part of the endeavor to build a broadly appealing socialist version of modernity in the “Thaw,” the decade and a half following I. V. Stalin’s death in 1953 and the rise of N. S. Khrushchev to power. This Thaw-era drive for a socialist modernity involved forging a society, culture, and a way of life widely perceived at home and abroad as progressive and advanced, and as ofering a viable alternative to the predominant western paradigm. The end goals of this post-Stalin endeavor to construct an appealing socialist alternative involved reaching the utopia of communism, a drive that stagnated under Stalin, while also winning the Cold War and in the process spreading the Soviet model of socialist modernity across the globe.

Living vnye: The example of Bulat Okudzhava's and Vladimir Vysotskii's avtorskaia pesnia by Danijela Lugarić Vukas

The paper analyzes avtorskaia pesnia as a deterritorializing milieu (A. Yurchak) par excellence. In order to address the question of heterogeneity during the late Soviet socialism, the analysis does a close reading of the poetry of two prominent Russian bards, B. Okudzhava and V. Vysotskii, paying special atention to one of the most authoritative Soviet cultural myths and ideologemes, that of “motherland” (Rodina).

Soviet Port Cities and Consumerism in the 1070s and '80s by Irina Mukhina 

Being close to the west did not necessarily result in a westernization of Soviet identities. The case of Soviet port cities illustrates that during the 1970s and 80s, close intercultural contact and easy access to western goods sharpened people’s critical view about the west, and the quality and usefulness of its products for Soviet everyday life.

Limits of Westernization during Cultural Détente in Provincial Society of Soviet Ukraine: A View from Below by Sergei I. Zhuk 

Using the personal diaries of young people from “provincial” towns and cities of Soviet Ukraine, this essay illustrates the obvious limits of Westernization during the cultural détente of the ŗşŝŖs in Soviet provincial society. The narratives of the personal diaries, writen during the 1970s and 80s, demonstrate that Soviet young people still shared the same communist ideological discourse, internalized it, imagined and perceived the outside world through the communist ideological “discursive lenses” and constructed their own identity, using the same communist ideological discursive elements.

Watching Television and Emotional Commitment in the Late Soviet Union by Kirsten Bönker 

As a popular consumer good, television transformed Soviet households’ material culture and lifestyle. It interconnected time and space in a new way and helped to constitute the Soviet audience as ȁemotional communitiesȂ. It did so by providing a speciic entertainment culture that supported the regime’s claim of guaranteeing a decent lifestyle to many groups of Soviet society. Oral history interviews reveal that people’s representations of Soviet television are a still persistent source of emotional commitment to the former Soviet life.

Soviet Television and Popular Mass Culture in the 1960s by Kristian Feigelson 

In the 1960s, cinema was the most appreciated entertainment for a multicultural Soviet audience. In contrast, television was rather considered a propaganda tool. And yet, during the Thaw, television appears to have expressed an atmosphere of hope. Despite the heritage of Agitprop and the tradition of using visual media as a political weapon, television became the medium of the everyday life.

Seventeen Moments of Spring, a Soviet James Bond Series? Official Discourse, Folklore, and Cold War Culture in Late Socialism by Isabelle de Keghel 

The Soviet television mini-series Seventeen Moments of Spring is one of the most important products of popular culture in the USSR. In the Cold War context, viewers considered the series’ main character Stirliz as an alternative to the western hero James ”ond. “lthough the mini-series was produced in the ŗşŝŖs, it communicates values that are close to Stalin-era paterns. While ordinary Soviet citizens criticized the numerous weaknesses about Stirliz, they never questioned the underlying communist ideology in the numerous anecdotes.

Soviet West: Estonian estrada in the Soviet Union by Aimar Ventsel 

In the last one and a half decades of the Soviet Union, Estonian pop and rock artists suddenly gained popularity on a Soviet national level. The number of these artists was limited, but they had a huge impact and are still well known in the former Soviet Union. The success of Estonian artists had many reasons. One of them was the Soviet cultural politics of light entertainment music. This type of music served both educational and leisure purposes. Another reason was the political situation of the time. Soviet citizens gained more access to western cultural products, including pop music. In this context, Estonian pop music was seen as a domestic replacement for western music. And last but not least, Estonian artists took the opportunity to travel, to make money and to get famous.

Between E and U: Alfred Schnittke, Popular Culture and Serious Music in Late Soviet Socialism (1968-1982) by Boris Belge 

During the 1970s, highbrow and lowbrow forms of culture began to approach each other in the Soviet Union again. “lfred Schnitke, then one of the most famous Soviet composers, even proclaimed «bridging the gap» between both worlds as his life’s goal. This essay contextualizes SchnitkeȂs work and biography in a broader social and cultural development framework of late Socialism. I argue that during a short period in the ŗşŝŖs, diferent groups and generations tried to get into contact with each other. As a main protagonist of this movement, Schnitke eventually gained reputation and success among a wide range of concertgoers.

Ways of Life at a Crossroads. Aksënöv's Ostrov Krym (Island of Crimea) by Tatjana Hofmann 

Aksënov’s novel Ostrov Krym (Island of Crimea) plays with the idea that Crimea is not a peninsula but an isolated, non-Soviet, liberal island. The narrative tension, centred on the afair of the male and the female main character, asks whether Russia should develop towards the western or the eastern world. Aksënov’s novel can be read as part of the underground pop culture in the late Soviet Union as well as a space for discussion of its non-oicial, desired, demanded or dreaded cultural vectors.

Pop and Politics in Late Soviet Society. Final remarks by Peter Collmer 


Full text of issue

Euxeinos 25-26

Pop and Politics in Late Soviet Society edited by Peter Collmer and Carmen Scheide