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Soviet Cultural Practices and the West

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image of Russian History

Western cultural influences swept the closed Ukrainian city of Dniepropetrovsk under Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko. Imports included rock music, western literature and films, consumer products such as jeans. Primary consumers were children of the elite, and later young working class students of technical institutes. These products entered Dniepropetrovsk from L'viv, and later from fraternal socialist countries and the west. They were brought illegally by black marketers and tourists. Consumers used the western products to assert new non-Soviet identities, which could include Ukrainian nationalism, religiosity, and westernized youth culture. Official reactions were contradictory, revealing tensions between Moscow and Ukrainian authorities, and within the Ukrainian cultural and security apparatus. Komsomol activists were instrumental in disseminating new trends in western music through officially sponsored discotheques. These activists would form the core of the entrepreneurial class that emerged during Gorbachev's market reforms. Zhuk offers an original picture of Soviet cultural practices by focusing on a closed Ukrainian city, rather than the more cosmopolitan Moscow or Leningrad, and by featuring cultural changes during the final three decades of Soviet power. He provides rich documentation through participant interviews, and periodicals and archival documents not previously consulted by researchers.


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