CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

The paper analyzes the evolution of Soviet/Russian rock music, from a West-inspired English-speaking “subculture” confined to dance clubs in the 1960’s and 1970’s to russkii rok, the canon it has become today -- a quasi-synonym of sung poetry --, thanks to its progressive legitimization in the 1980’s. This legitimization process started in the late 1970’s, parallel to the empowerment of a new artistic generation (Leningrad’s “New Wave”) that broke away from the close imitation of Western rock stars. It was made possible by the affiliation of rock to a certain Russian cultural tradition (early twentieth-century poetry, bard songs, the “new urban folklore”). Numerous and diverse actors and institutions (literary and artistic intelligentsia, censorship focusing on rock bands’ lyrics, Leningrad’s Rock Club, underground rock activists in search of recognition, an audience in search of meaning...), contributed, without obeying the same logic, to turning rock into a national and almost literary genre. In this quality, between 1986 and 1988, russkii rok donned the role of an avant-garde democratic denunciator of the Soviet regime. Then, after the collapse of the USSR, it rapidly lost its negative identity without nonetheless losing its literary identification.

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