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  • Rock Goes Russian

    Posted on November 17th, 2014 katiewells9 6 comments

    Estrada, or stage music, was the preferred music of 1973. It rarely addressed the social issues of the time, but rather focused on the official boundaries of Soviet discourse. The musical establishment of the time “controlled the business through exclusive rights to lease stages, issue recording contracts, contract for radio and television appearances, or to place songs on the official lists of sanctioned music.”

    David Tukhmanov, an honored member of the Union of Composers, composed the hit song “My Address is the Soviet Union,” which addressed Soviet patriotism and the shared view of their greatness and strength. The lyrics of the song allowed for him to be a little more experimental with his music, even including the electric guitar.

    Very few performers were able to act outside of the Soviet system, including Bulat Okudzhava or Vladimir Vysotskii. These two artists were extremely popular by 1973 allowing them to be known throughout the Soviet Union on scratchy, unofficial tape recordings.

    Tatyana Nazarenko: Dance Floor (1977) Rock music spread slowly but inexorably across the Soviet Union, helped by tape recorders and other ingenious homemade recorders. The surest sign of its permanence was when it replaced traditional dance music in villages and provincial towns.

    Tatyana Nazarenko: Dance Floor (1977)
    Rock music spread slowly but inexorably across the Soviet Union, helped by tape recorders and other ingenious homemade recorders. The surest sign of its permanence was when it replaced traditional dance music in villages and provincial towns.

    While rock ‘n’ roll was not the approved form of music and performing of the time, 1973 brought it to the borders of the Soviet Union. The Belorussian band, Pesniary (Songsters), kept within the limits of traditional Soviet music, while indulging in a slight taste for electronic music.

    “At first we tried to sing like the Beatles. And we probably weren’t any worse than, say, the Happy Fellows or the Blue Guitars. But before long we started to feel that this wasn’t us,” said the Songsters.

    The Songsters eventually found themselves through folk music. “It may be a surprising combination of instruments, but how subtly and tastefully the Songsters bring us the soul of Belorussia!”

    Rock ‘n’ roll entered the Soviet Union stage as an English phenomenon. The early rockers sang American or English songs, often not understanding what they were singing about. The culture was “strictly imitative” in that sense and it was not until Andrei Makarevich that Russian rock was created. Makarevich was the lead singer of Time Machine, a Moscow band created in 1968. He began writing rock songs in the early 1970s and showed the Soviet people that rock music could be applicable to their lives as well.

     

  • The Corn Campaign

    Posted on November 3rd, 2014 katiewells9 8 comments

    The 1960s brought with them a multitude of agricultural and economic changes beginning with the realization that in order to improve anything, the Soviets needed to grow more crops to feed the livestock. Nikita Khrushchev stated in 1954, “There will be no communism if our country has as much metal and cement as you like but meat and grain are in short supply.” He hit the nail on the head with that statement, showing a change in Soviet leadership and priorities. Thus began the corn campaign.

    Soloviev: Hybrid Seeds are the Rule for High Corn Harvests! (1956) Source: International Poster Gallery. 1998.

    Soloviev: Hybrid Seeds are the Rule for High Corn Harvests! (1956)
    Source: International Poster Gallery. 1998.

    Khrushchev made use of every opportunity to make corn the official fodder crop; including importing seed corn from the United States, establishing a corn research institute in the Ukraine, a new scientific journal titled Corn, a Corn Pavilion, and an increase of hectares of corn.

    Besides making use of these tactics, culinary experts created over 50 recipes with corn as an ingredient to increase production and purchase of it. Corn was becoming a vital aspect of Soviet life, but at what cost?

    Although Khrushchev’s original plan was smart, it was not executed properly. Instead of “concentrating on more efficient methods of cultivating, fertilizing, and mechanically harvesting corn, Soviet agricultural authorities continued to expand corn acreage to areas lacking in appropriate climatic conditions and sufficient labor supplies.” The Soviet’s made unreasonable estimates of production that were never fulfilled.

     

    Life Magazine: The Cornball Act Down on the Farm (1959) Khrushchev visit to an American corn farm, with a goal of bolstering his program against Soviet critics, attracted considerable attention in the United States as well.

    Life Magazine: The Cornball Act Down on the Farm (1959)
    Khrushchev visit to an American corn farm, with a goal of bolstering his program against Soviet critics, attracted considerable attention in the United States as well.

    According to D. Korolev, Russian Republic First Deputy Minister of Trade, “The production plan for fresh frozen corn was 1,000 tons, and 39 tons were produced. There were no valid reasons for the nonfulfillment of the plan.” These insufficiencies damaged the Soviet agriculture and Khrushchev’s reputation as a wise leader.

    Although corn was not succeeding as well as had been hoped, other crops were doing better. “Party and economic agencies are carrying out substantial work on improving the utilization of irrigated lands, specializing the farms, furnishing excavating equipment and vehicles and irrigation equipment, and training cadres of equipment operators and irrigation workers on the collective and state farms,” said P. Shelest in 1964. “Today great efforts are being exerted to raise the yield of all agricultural crops by 1965 and to ensure a sharp upsurge in animal husbandry.”

    The agricultural increase in the 1960s was a step in the right direction for the Soviets and what they were trying to accomplish during that time. They had all of the right ideas, but when it came to executing them they lacked the right methods.