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The Komsomol and Punk Rock

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:

Approved Copy

Workers of the World Unite!
ALL-UNION LENIN COMMUNIST YOUTH LEAGUE NIKOLAEV REGIONAL COMMITTEE OF KOMSOMOL OF UKRAINE.

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.

Group Name

Type of Propaganda

1. Sex Pistols

Punk, violence

2. B-52s

Punk, violence

3. Madness

Punk, violence

4. Clash

Punk, violence

5. Stranglers

Punk, violence

6. Kiss

Neofascism, punk, violence

7. Crocus

Violence, cult of strong personality, violence, vandalism

8. Styx

violence, vandalism

9. Iron Maiden

Violence, religious obscurantism

10. Judas Priest

Anticommunism, racism

11. AC/DC

Neofascism, violence

12. Sparks

Neofascism, racism

23. Originals

Sex

13. Black Sabbath

Violence, religious obscurantism

24. Donna Summer

Eroticism

25. Tina Turner

Sex

14. Alice Cooper

Violence, vandalism

26. Junior English (reggae)

Sex

15. Nazareth

Violence, religious mysticism

27. Canned Heat

Homosexuality

28. Munich Machine

Eroticism

16. Scorpions

Violence

29. Ramones

Punk

17. Gengis Khan

Anticommunism, nationalism

30. Van Halen

Anti-Soviet propaganda

31. Julio Iglesias

Neofascism

18. UFO

Violence

32. Yazoo

Punk, violence

19. Pink Floyd (1983)

Distortion of Soviet foreign policy (‘Soviet aggression in Afghanistan)

33. Depeche Mode

Punk, violence

34. Village People

Violence

35. Ten CC (10 cc)

Neofascism

20. Talking Heads

Myth of Soviet military threat

36. Stooges

Violence

37. Boys

Punk, violence

21. Perron

Eroticism

38. Blondie

Punk, violence

22. Bohannon

Eroticism

“APPROVED BY”

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.

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