Sergei I. Zhuk. Rock and Roll in the Rocket City: The West, Identity, and Ideology in Soviet Dniepropetrovsk, 1960–1985. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press; Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010

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John Bushnell


Post-War Ukraine, Rock Music in the USSR, Soviet Music Culture, Soviet Youth Culture, Underground Music Market in the USSR


At one level, Sergei Zhuk tells the story suggested by the title—that of the arrival of rock music in the Ukrainian city of Dniepropetrovsk, which was closed to foreigners from 1959 onward. Zhuk repeatedly asserts that, because the city was off-limits to Westerners (many of whom, in Zhuk’s telling, came to the Soviet Union bearing rock music), the city’s rock fans had only limited access to rock records. Especially in the early years, they or their black market providers travelled to other cities, above all L’viv (a cultural emporium because of the number of visiting Poles), to obtain stock. Nevertheless, the history of rock music in Dniepropetrovsk followed the same trajectory as in “open” Soviet cities: jazz arrived in the mid-1950s, the Beatles by the mid-1960s, then heavy metal; in short, musical tastes followed Western trends, with an admixture of official and unofficial Soviet bands. As elsewhere, rock fans used whatever means they could to record and rerecord whatever they could get their hands on (including, interestingly, taking advantage of local facilities that recorded “musical greeting cards”). As everywhere, rock music was what young people wanted to listen and dance to and what musicians wanted to play. Despite efforts by Komsomol and cultural officials to ensure that Soviet tunes had priority, the public more or less got what it wanted, often with the connivance of these same officials or through the musical black market that seems to have operated out in the open and to have been subjected to serious harassment only occasionally. When commercial dance halls opened, the sponsors had a commercial interest in providing the music patrons desired. Because Zhuk conducted interviews with participants (fans, culture officials, former black marketers, and a former KGB agent) and because he has drawn on local police, Komsomol, Communist Party, and other documents, he is able to provide a comprehensive map of the many ways in which young people in Dniepropetrovsk acquired Western music and information about their favorite bands, official efforts to offer a domesticated alternative, and the countervailing efforts of cultural organizations to exploit the market for rock music.
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