I’m currently reading Alexei Yurchak’s fascinating book, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation. Yurchak asks why did the Soviet system’s implosion “seemed so unexpected when it began, and at the same time so unsurprising and fast once it had occurred.” The contains numerous examples of the contradictory nature of Soviet life, where as citizens participated in the ritualized, pro forma ideological discourse, this very discourse allowed them to carve out what they called “normal meaningful life” that went beyond the state’s ideology.
Anyway, I hope to discuss Yurchak’s book in more detail once I finish reading it. What I want to present here is this interesting Komsomol document pictured on the left. The document has been floating around the internet for a while now. Yurchak states that it was published in Novaya gazeta in July 2003, but I didn’t find it in their archive.
Here is a translation:
Workers of the World Unite!
For internal use only.
To Secretaries of Gorkoms and Raikoms of the Komsomol of Ukraine.
The following is an approximate list of foreign music groups and artists whose repertoires contain ideologically harmful compositions.
This information is recommended for the purpose of intensifying control over the activities of discotheques.
This information must be also provided to all VIA (vocal instrument ensembles) and youth discotheques in the region.
Secretary of the Obkom Komsomol, P. Grishin.
Approximate list of foreign music groups and artists whose repertoires contain ideologically harmful compositions.
Type of Propaganda
1. Sex Pistols
Neofascism, punk, violence
Violence, cult of strong personality, violence, vandalism
9. Iron Maiden
Violence, religious obscurantism
10. Judas Priest
13. Black Sabbath
Violence, religious obscurantism
24. Donna Summer
25. Tina Turner
14. Alice Cooper
26. Junior English (reggae)
Violence, religious mysticism
27. Canned Heat
28. Munich Machine
17. Gengis Khan
30. Van Halen
31. Julio Iglesias
19. Pink Floyd (1983)
Distortion of Soviet foreign policy (‘Soviet aggression in Afghanistan)
33. Depeche Mode
34. Village People
35. Ten CC (10 cc)
20. Talking Heads
Myth of Soviet military threat
Head of the General Department of the Obkom of Komsomol E. Priazhinskaia
10 January 1985
This document is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it shows that Soviet youth were quite in tune to global youth culture. Soviet youth listened to the same metal and punk groups that were popular in the United States and Western Europe. Second, Komsomol moralists and ideologues had similar concerns of their Western counterparts. They were also afraid that rock, punk and metal spread violence, deviance, and sex among its listeners. Still, this list expresses concerns about ideology, specifically what the author’s labels “anticommunism” and “neofascism.” I am not sure what the latter means, but I can guess that it is a synonym for bourgeois ideology.
There are some funny miscategorizations in this list. For example, the Village People are denounced for “violence.” I have no idea where they got that idea. If anything they should have gotten the “homosexuality” label. Also Depeche Mode getting the “violence” label is equally laughable.
I suspect that while the documents shows that Soviet youth were quite hip to global youth culture, Komsomol leaders were not or at least played like they were. My guess this is a generational issue since the age between the Komsomol rank and file and their leaders grew in the postwar period. You could easily have a Komsomol Obkom secretary in his or her thirties, while the rank and file in the teens and twenties.
At any rate, I wanted to offer this document and its translation to readers so they could get a taste of the Soviet past.