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Rock and Roll in the Rocket City

, 464 pages

28 halftones

January 2017



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Rock and Roll in the Rocket City

The West, Identity, and Ideology in Soviet Dniepropetrovsk, 1960–1985


How did rock music and other products of Western culture come to pervade youth culture in Brezhnev-era Dniepropetrovsk, a Ukrainian city essentially closed to outsiders and heavily policed by the KGB? In Rock and Roll in the Rocket City, Sergei I. Zhuk assesses the impact of Westernization on the city’s youth, examining the degree to which the consumption of Western music, movies, and literature ultimately challenged the ideological control maintained by state officials.

This book is the first historical study—in any language—of the everyday lives of Soviet urban youth during the Brezhnev era. A longtime student and resident of Dniepropetrovsk, Zhuk began research for this project in the 1990s. Weaving together diaries, interviews, oral histories, and KGB and party archival documents, he provides a vivid account of how Soviet cultural repression and unrest during the Brezhnev period laid the groundwork for a resurgent Ukrainian nationalism in the 1980s. In so doing, he demonstrates the influence of Western cultural consumption on the formation of a post-Soviet national identity.

Sergei I. Zhuk is a professor of history at Ball State University. He is the author of Russia’s Lost Reformation: Peasants, Millennialism, and Radical Sects in Southern Russia and Ukraine, 1830–1917. He was a Kennan Institute Research Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in 2002–2003.

"An invaluable addition to a less researched but culturally transformative period between Khrushchev's 'thaw' and Gorbachev's perestroika. Illustrations, an excellent bibliography, and richly informed footnotes abound."

"Refreshingly new and rich in insights."

"There have been worthy studies of rock music in the Soviet Union in the past, but what distinguishes Zhuk’s account is the breadth of material he has been able to assemble in documenting the deep roots that the rock culture sunk into the society of 'developed socialism'... Zhuk’s innovative book opens up a new field of inquiry, one that raises fundamental questions about what we really know about how the Soviet Union worked."

"[Zhuk] makes his case convincingly in his thoroughly researched and well-organized study of western cultural influences during his youth in his home city."

" Rock and Roll in the Rocket City is crammed with food for thought and should provoke many productive conversations in the field of Soviet history and beyond."

"Zhuk has written a fascinating insight... The book provides the necessary background for many of the personalities and events that took place in the first two decades of Ukrainian independence."

"Zhuk gives us a fascinating insight into Dnipropetrovsk under Soviet rule and provides a comprehensive background to amny of the personalities and events that took place in the first two decades of Ukrainian independence. Rock and Roll in the Rocket City should be included in every course taught on twentieth-century Ukraine."

"Zhuk's excellent monograph makes a signal contribution in teasing out the complexities, ambiguities, and contradictions of official policy toward 'western' cultural influence from the 1960s to the mid-1980s. [This book] should be lauded for taking a major step forward in the study of popular culture in the late Soviet Union."

"A fascinating and academically important work."

"Serious and highly original study, the most complete to date of Western influence in a provincial city of the former Soviet Union."

"Sergei I. Zhuk's nuanced study offers a welcome addition to the growing literature on what used to be regarded as an unvariegated era of Soviet history."

"A very important contribution to late-Soviet social and institutional history."

"This book is a rich read that pairs depth of analysis to an accurate measure of anecdote, and which succeeds in keeping a critical distance to a subject that clearly lies close to the personal affection of the author."

"Sergei Zhuk’s illumination of youth culture in a provincial and closed Ukrainian city draws on a fascinating breadth of sources—archival documents, diaries, oral histories, and KGB intelligence. Zhuk shows how, despite the efforts of ideological officials and the paranoia of the KGB, the Soviet state fought a losing battle of accommodation and compromise against Western cultural influences. These influences, however, served to bolster as much as undermine Soviet ideology. Zhuk reconfigures Brezhnev-era society to reveal a more contradictory and multifaceted history than one usually encounters."

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