Western Styles Infect Soviet Youth

Rock music had been known in the Soviet Union pre-1972, but it was a western phenomenon followed mainly by young people. As James von Geldern mentions, like opera is usually thought to be sung exclusively in Italian, rock was thought to be sung exclusively in English. The thought of hearing rock music sung in Russian seemed crazy and definitely not as cool. With western culture on the rise among so many young people, parents, teachers, and the media expressed their concerns with letters and even magazine articles mocking the westernized youth.

Soviet educators were alarmed by how western influences were affecting their students. A teacher in Moscow in June 1972 wrote a letter expressing his or her concern for the students. It talks about how girls wear too much eye makeup and boys have shoulder length hair. How students need to be wearing school uniforms and be deterred from wearing foreign patches. It also mentions that teachers need to be protecting these young people and that more literature needs to be published for teachers and parents on this issue. That parents who are supporting their children in wearing what they want to wear should

“consider that youngsters sometimes go from trying on foreign fashions to trying on foreign ideas.”

In 1973 the satirical magazine Krokodil wrote a piece called In The World of Cockroaches, mocking the westernized youth of Soviet society. It’s a story about a guy named Goga who lays on the coach all day, has been rejected by collage three years in a row, and just listens to his tape recorder for hours. A cockroach comes to him and says based on his life for the past three years the cockroaches have decided to accept him into the Grand Fellowship for Domestic Parasites. He brings along the girl next door and they become cockroaches. At first the new life is cool because it’s all about going out at night to get food. Goga and his girlfriend would stay out and listen to music all day. Over time they got lazy and wouldn’t even go out for food and instead took crumbs from others. Soon other young cockroaches began to act like them and the elders disliked it. They decided they no longer wanted Goga and Sonka and returned them to human life. This article is really saying something about how Soviet society feels about westernized youths if even cockroaches that live in rot and decay didn’t even want them living with them.

Krokodil Magazine from the 1940s

Overall these sources show how most adults in Soviet society were worried about how western culture was affecting young people. That parents and teachers needed to protect their youth or else they’d end up like Goga and Sonka, which would ultimately reflect poorly on their society.

Below is a video demonstrating how young listeners of popular music used the black market to distribute records.

Shadows on the Sidewalks (1960)


This post earned a “comrades’ corner” award from the editorial team!