Rockin' in the Second World


Richard Weitz discusses Rock and Roll in the Rocket City, a book by the Ball State historian Sergei Zhuk that sounds pretty fascinating. It explores "rock music's role in the Soviet collapse by focusing on the experience of a single city, Dniepropetrovsk, Ukraine, during the late-Soviet era."

Soviet authorities were clearly worried that rock threatened their ability to keep the population submissive. But Zhuk found that such fears were perhaps overblown, at least when it came to the political sphere. Most Soviet youths were very "good, loyal patriots," Zhuk found, who preferred European rather than American rock groups. Some particular favorites in the former Soviet Union during the 1970s and 80s were Deep Purple, Sweet and AC/DC.

Many members of the political elites that now run post-Soviet states trace their roots to the former Soviet Communist Party, or its youth wing, the Komsomol, and were not heavily influenced by rock 'n roll.

The business sphere is another story. Zhuk suggested that many of today's economic titans in former Soviet states learned the ins and outs of business through quasi-legal operations in the late Soviet era, operations that depended on illicit payments and protection rackets….Some of the most entrepreneurial minds in the late-Communist period got their starts by opening speakeasies, underground rock clubs that sought to cater to the musical tastes of the young generation. Since they lacked official sanction, these operations had to pay bribes to officials to stay open, as well as pay protection money to proto-mafia groups. The skills acquired in the 1970s and 80s, helped some of these entrepreneurs survive the tumult of the 1990s and thrive in the 21st century.

Read the whole article here. Hat tip: Bryan Alexander.