Pop music from stagnation to perestroika: how economic reform destroyed East European cultural networks

Speaker: Zbigniew Wojnowski (University of Roehampton)

zbigniew wojnowski soviet pop

Convenors: Roy Allison (REES; St. Antony's College, Oxford) & Andrew Morrison (New College, Oxford) 

This paper examines the history of the pop music industry in the Soviet bloc, focusing in particular on international Polish-Soviet concert tours organised between the late 1970s and the late 1980s. It thus explores how the contradictory pressures of identity politics, cultural diplomacy, and profit fuelled reform in the Soviet bloc. Particularly in the former USSR, but also in its satellite states, the last years of Brezhnev’s rule are often associated with stability and relative prosperity. In contrast, perestroika is remembered as a prelude to the 1990s, a time of economic hardship for Soviet and East European societies. My paper challenges these periodisations as it reconstructs the late 1970s and the early 1980s as a period of unease caused by the widespread belief that East European institutions were not working. It further identifies strong roots of enthusiasm for market reform under Gorbachev