Soviet Culture

Soviet Culture

Khrushchev bangs his shoe during his speech at the U.N. Photo from:,28804,1843506_1843505_1843496,00.html

Khrushchev bangs his shoe during his speech at the U.N. Photo from:,28804,1843506_1843505_1843496,00.html

After Stalin’s death, Western music, particularly jazz, became popular in the Soviet Union. Brought from Germany by the troops returning from the war, it was copied onto records churned out by the few still-alive small enterprises (banned when Khrushchev came to power) and even by the state record company.  That activity was viewed as threatening the uniformity of culture.

Bone Music. Forbidden in USSR Western music recorded on used X-ray film. Photo from:

Many of those who recorded music on developed X-ray film were convicted of profiteering.

The Department of Science and Culture of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union issued a memorandum about “the negative role of the Western song-and-dance music in communist upbringing. ”

The memorandum reported that it had “received signals” that  song-and-dance music from America, England, and West Germany  played on a daily basis, for hours at a time, in summer camps, rest houses, parks, trains, stadiums and other places where crowds congregated and could not be easily monitored. When listened to in excess, that kind of music negatively affected the ideological taste of the Soviet youth by causing causing unhealthy excitement. It even came to the point that radio stations preferred broadcasting Western music.

An audit revealed that stores that followed this trend ordered more and more records for financial reasons. In two years after Stalin’s death the share of records playing Western music increased twenty-five-fold.

Saleswomen were well-versed in that genre but not in other genres. They preferred it to serious music and encouraged their customers to purchase Western dance music, thus contributing to the unreasonable increase of demand.

Some business cooperatives took advantage of the situation and half-legally produced not only Western dance music but also recordings of Pyotr Leshchenko (singer who died in a Gulag camp,) Alexander Vertinsky (singer who had left Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution but then returned; his performances were strictly censored), and others undesirable. These records were also readily available under the counter.

The memorandum concluded that Western dance music played a negative role in the communist upbringing of the Soviet masses and, most importantly, the Soviet youth. It directed the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Trade to lower the planned production of light music; suggested to the Administration of Literature and Publishing to strengthen control of the record-producing organizations; proposed to the Ministry of Culture, the Soviet Trade Union, and the Komsomol to increase control over local performances in public places; recommended that the newspapers Pravda and Soviet Culture urgently address this issue.

The joke “today he plays jazz, tomorrow he will sell out his Motherland” and “playing a saxophone is one step away from using a knife” reflected the official attitude to the contemporary music.

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