filter by topic »

Jazz, Rock, Punk: Music in Communist Eastern Europe

Back to modules »
Popular music has always been just as closely associated with revolt as with conformism. This was no different under Eastern European Communism. However, when it comes to oppressive regimes that aim to control their citizens' private lives to a lesser or greater extent, the significance of music as a vehicle of expressing political opinion is intensified. State Socialism created a strictly supervised popular music scene: the Party defined who was allowed to start a band, who could perform and where, who could release an album and get airtime on the radio. It also restricted the distribution of Western popular music. The public interest in various genres of popular music was so great, however, that the rules of the game had to be constantly renegotiated, and a plethora of strategies and cultural practices evolved creating very complex and exciting music scenes in countries of the region. This module helps students orient themselves in the former Eastern European underground, a revival of which can be seen today as well. The COURAGE Registry allows them to discover certain paths and patterns of music production, as well as subcultures and their relationship to dissident circles across the region.


  • Mitchell, T. (1992). Mixing Pop and Politics: Rock Music in Czechoslovakia Before and After the Velvet Revolution. Popular Music, 11(02), 187.
  • Yurchak, A. (2005). The True Colors of Communism: King Crimson, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd. In Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (pp. 207–237). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Retrieved from

Featured Items from COURAGE Registry (selection)

Related Collections from COURAGE Registry (selection)


In-class or short-term assignments
1) Browse the recommended items from the COURAGE Registry and make a list of those performers (singers or bands) that are mentioned. Which countries are these from? What kind of music did they play?

2) Take a look at the stories of these performers. (If available. If not, use the web.) In what sense they were part of the culture of dissent? What are the similarities and differences between their stories/trajectories?

3) Take the list you made and search the web: what other performers are mentioned by the sources you found in the same context? Extend your original list and compare it with that of your classmates.

4) Select a performer or group you find interesting for some reason, but is not included in the COURAGE Registry: track their story and write it up in 500-1000 words. Why do you think this performer or group is interesting?
Offsite, longer-term assignments
Find out what non-conformist performers were popular in the city/district of (or the closest city to) your institution in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s? Where did they perform? Are those places still around? Try to find those places - or the site where they were (at least the diner/office/store that replaced them)... Shoot a photo of the current state of this site and put together an online exhibition with your classmates.


    You must be logged in to read and post comments!