Thursday, May 7, 2009

"They were considered the big capitalist threat during the Cold War."

For our last portfolio I looked at the classic Beatles song, "Back in the USSR." For this unit, I got to thinking, "the Beatles have had such a massive impact on western culture, I wonder if they did the same behind the Iron Curtain?" According to Yury Pelyushonok, they did. At times his description is a big exaggerated I think, but it is interesting to see just how far the Fab Four reached.

In this article, Yury describes how infatuated the Soviet youth were with the boys from Liverpool. Beatles music was banned in the USSR, as it was believed that their music would taint the youth. As Krushchev once said, "The youth of the Soviet Union do not need this cacophonous rubbish. It's just a small step from saxophones to switchblades."

Yury describes how, because of the government's position on the music, Beatles record were incredibly hard to obtain. When atheletes would come back from other countries, they would be asked, "Do you have a Beatles record?" If they did, it would be confiscated, scratched by a machine and returned as a sort of souvenier. Yury claims that various diplomats, atheletes and sailors managed to smuggled records in. It is from this contraband that most people got their copies of the Beatles' music, often as fourth or fifth copies of the original.

Pelyushonok goes on to say that in later years, records from bands such as the Rollin Stones would be allowed, but not the Beatles. He says that the reason is that the Rolling Stones were just a band. The Beatles were an event - the cultural event of the 20th century.

While some of Yury's claims are a little hard to swallow, for example his claim that the Russian youth worshipped the Fab Four so profusely that imitating John Lennon on stage would be akin to a Catholic dressing up as Jesus for Halloween. He also believes that it was this lost generation of Russians, rocking out to the best band in history with their messages of peace and love, that changed Russia. When these youngsters grew up, indoctrinated by the Liverpool regime, they became the deputies and the officers of Soviet Russia, and they changed the way things worked.

Those last statements may be a bit out there, but I think it would be foolish to disregard Yury's claims entirely. The Beatles were one of the biggest cultural forces in the recent history of the West, it shouldn't be surprising that they did the same in the repressive Soviet state.

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