Andrei Grigoriev Apollonov Bibliography

Red from “Simons” was urgently hospitalized, informs

The soloist of group “Ivanushki International” Andrey Grigoriev-Apollonov has been delivered in one of capital clinics with severe pain in the abdomen.

As it turned out, the singer acute pancreatitis.

On the morning of Andrei’s condition doctors assessed as stable, but in the evening he got worse, so he had to be transferred to the intensive care unit.

Recall that recently a group of “Ivanushki International” celebrated its 20th anniversary.

On that occasion, the musicians had a party in one of Moscow’s karaoke clubs.

And this summer, Andrey Grigoriev-Apollonov celebrated its 45th anniversary.

“Everyone calls me Red “Ivanushka”. I used to, but in 45 it is time to move on Red Andrei Genrikhovich,” said Andrew.

“Every year I celebrate this day equally. Come to me my friends, we have fun, we communicate, “Ivanushki” sing, and those who can, we sing and dance,” added the leader of group “Ivanushki International”.




Upcoming titles in ABC-CLIO’s series

Popular Culture in the Contemporary World

Pop Culture Latin America! Media, Arts, and Lifestyle, Lisa Shaw and Stephanie Dennison Pop Culture India! Media, Arts, and Lifestyle, Asha Kasbekar Pop Culture Japan! Media, Arts, and Lifestyle, William H. Kelly Pop Culture Israel! Media, Arts, and Lifestyle Pop Culture Korea! Media, Arts, and Lifestyle Pop Culture Scandinavia! Media, Arts, and Lifestyle Pop Culture Caribbean! Media, Arts, and Lifestyle, Brenda F. Berrian Pop Culture France! Media, Arts, and Lifestyle, Wendy Michallat Pop Culture Ireland! Media, Arts, and Lifestyle Pop Culture Australia! Media, Arts, and Lifestyle Pop Culture UK! Media, Arts, and Lifestyle, Bill Osgerby Pop Culture West Africa! Media, Arts, and Lifestyle, Onookome Okome Pop Culture Germany! Media, Arts, and Lifestyle, Catherine Fraser Pop Culture China! Media, Arts, and Lifestyle, Kevin Latham



RUSSI A! Media, Arts, and Lifestyle

Birgit Beumers

Santa Barbara, California

Denver, Colorado

Oxford, England

Copyright © 2005 by Birgit Beumers All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review, without prior permission in writing from the publishers.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Beumers, Birgit. Pop culture Russia! : media, arts, and lifestyle / Birgit Beumers. p. cm. — (Popular culture in the contemporary world) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1-85109-459-8 (hardback : alk. paper) — ISBN 1-85109-464-4 (ebook) 1. Popular culture—Russia (Federation)—History. 2. Popular culture—Soviet Union—History. 3. Mass media—Russia (Federation)—History. I. Title. II. Series. DK510.762.B48 2005 306’.0947—dc22 2004026959 08















This book is also available on the World Wide Web as an eBook. Visit for details. ABC-CLIO, Inc. 130 Cremona Drive, P.O. Box 1911 Santa Barbara, California 93116-1911 Text design by Jane Raese This book is printed on acid-free paper. Manufactured in the United States of America




Acknowledgments xi Chronology of Events xiii



After the Revolution, 1 After World War II, 3 After the Thaw, 6 After Brezhnev, 9 The New Russia, 10 References, 12


The Media


The Broadcasting Media, 13 Television, 13 Radio, 46 Internet, 49 The Print Media, 51 Newspapers, 51 Journals, 57 A-Z, 63 Bibliography, 69 2

Visual Culture


The Cinema, 71 Feature Films, 71 Animation, 99 Visual Arts and Crafts, 104 Art Movements, 105 Crafts, 108



Architecture, 112 Urban Design, 112 Churches and Icons, 123 A-Z, 128 Bibliography, 133 3

Performing Arts


The Theater, 134 Drama Theater, 135 Puppet Theater, 160 Estrada and Popular Entertainment, 168 Staged Estrada, 169 Anecdotes and Jokes, 173 The Circus, 182 A History of the Circus, 182 Choreographed Acrobatics and Clowns, 186 A-Z, 192 Bibliography, 198 4

Music and Word


Jazz and Rock, 199 The Beginnings of Jazz and Rock Music, 199 The Bard Movement, 202 Rock Underground, 207 Pop Culture, 228 Rock Meets Pop, 228 Estrada and Pop Music, 236 Youth Culture and Language, 243 Youth Jargon and Slang, 245 Swearing, 246 Musicals, 246 Nord-Ost: The First Russian Musical, 249 Soviet Musicals—The Revival? 253 A-Z, 255 Bibliography, 262 5

Popular Entertainment Sports, 263 Olympic History, 264 Olympic Glory, 264 Team Sports, 268 Individual Sports, 278



Winter Sports, 286 Chess, 291 Pulp Fiction, 292 Publishing, 292 Best Sellers, 295 Detective Stories, 298 Soap Operas, 305 Crime Serials and Serial Crimes, 305 Crimeless Serials, 309 A-Z, 309 Bibliography, 314 6

Consumer Culture


Advertising, 316 Product Advertising, 320 Investment and Banks, 325 Social Advertising, 329 Leisure, 330 Restaurants, 330 Eating and Drinking, 335 Clubs and Bars, 337 Games, 342 Relaxation and Holidays, 343 Celebrations, 350 Public Holidays, 351 Religious Holidays, 352 Rites and Rituals, 354 Fashion, 356 Haute Couture, 359 Fashion Design, 363 A-Z, 367 Bibliography, 370

Glossary 373 Index 377 About the Author 400



Popular Culture Russia! is designed to offer an introduction to some of the developments in popular culture in the New Russia. There are some excellent studies on popular culture in Soviet Russia, such as Richard Stites’s Russian Popular Culture (Cambridge University Press, 1992). There are also collections of essays on aspects of contemporary culture; I should mention here Adele Barker’s Consuming Russia (Duke University Press, 1999) and Nancy Condee’s Soviet Hieroglyphics (BFI/Indiana University Press, 1995), which are groundbreaking and tackle aspects of popular culture previously not part of critical discourse. Dmitri Shalin’s Russian Culture at the Crossroads (Westview Press, 1996), Nicholas Rzhevsky’s Modern Russian Culture (Cambridge University Press, 1998), and Catriona Kelly’s and David Shepherd’s Russian Cultural Studies (Oxford University Press, 1998) are most valuable collections on Russian culture. This book attempts to chart the development of popular culture in Soviet Russia in broad terms, in order to set the backdrop for a detailed exploration of popular culture under Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin. I have clearly not covered everything but have selected what seems to be most representative of the fast development of contemporary culture in Russia. I could not even claim that I have covered the most important trends, figures, and events—only history will reveal that.


I should like to express my gratitude to the British Academy for funding my research trips to Russia during 2002 and 2003. I should like to thank Nadia, Polina, and Glasha for making me feel at home in the popular jungle of Moscow; Svetlana Kriukova and Svetlana Khokhriakova for their help in locating articles and pictures; Tamara, Masha, and Sasha at the Golden Mask for sorting me out whenever I got stuck; Tanya Tkach and Tanya Kuznetsova for helping me in Petersburg. Special thanks for help with illustrations to Galina Butseva of Kommersant for her incredible patience with the photo selection and to Irina Kaledina for her help with pictures. Sharon Daugherty and Anna Kaltenbach at ABC-CLIO have been the most competent editors any author could wish for. My sincere thanks to Gordon McVay for reading various drafts of the manuscript, to Barbara Heldt and Gerry Smith, and to Simon Mason for his patience and his invaluable suggestions. This book is for my mother, who supported the most extravagant endeavors of her quirky daughter and even read Russian pulp fiction!

Transliteration Transliteration from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet is a perennial problem for writers on Russian subjects. I have followed the Library of Congress system without diacritics, but I have broken from this system in several instances to make it more user-friendly: • when a Russian name has a clear English version (for example, Maria instead of Mariia, Alexander instead of Aleksandr); • when a Russian name has an accepted English spelling, or when Russian names are of Germanic origin (for example, Yeltsin instead of Eltsin, Eisenstein instead of Eizenshtein); • when a Russian surname ends in -ii or yi, this is replaced by a single -y (for example, Dostoevsky instead of Dostoevskii); this also applies to names ending in -oi. All Christian names end in a single -i (for example, Sergei, Yuri);



• when “ia” and “iu” are voiced (at the beginning of a word and when preceded by a vowel), they are rendered as “ya” and “yu” (for example, Daneliya, Yuri); a voiced “e” becomes “ye” (for example, Yefremov); and “ë” is rendered as “yo” (for example, Kiselyov); • when a soft sign has been omitted in an [’ev]-ending, this has been replaced with an “i” (for example, Vasiliev). I have adhered to some commonly used spellings for Russian names and words (for example, banya, stilyaga, Nevsky Prospekt, Utesov, Beria). In the main text, soft signs have been omitted; they have been kept for transliterated Russian titles, which follow Library of Congress without breaking from the system in the above cases. Titles of films, television series, and books are given in their accepted English version, followed by the Russian original in parentheses. Names of rock groups, radio stations, television programs, and newspapers are given in Russian, followed by their English meaning. Birgit Beumers Bristol, July 2004

Chronology of Events

1985 10 Mar

Chernenko dies (general secretary of CPSU since the death of Andropov on 9 February 1984)

11 Mar

Gorbachev confirmed as general secretary

28 Mar

death of painter Marc Chagall

04 Apr

death of filmmaker Dinara Asanova

16 May

announcement of antialcohol campaign

11–12 Jun

announcement of “acceleration” (uskorenie) of scientific and technological progress

21 Jun

A. N. Yakovlev as secretary for propaganda in the CC

24 Jun

announcement of perestroika

16 Jul

Shevardnadze as minister of foreign affairs


Avtograf participates in Live Aid concert for famine relief in Africa


moratorium on nuclear tests (until February 1987) 12th International Youth Festival, Moscow

27 Sept

Nikolai Tikhonov retires as chairman of Council of Ministers and is replaced by Nikolai Ryzhkov (head of UralMash)

2–5 Oct

Gorbachev on state visit to France

19–21 Nov

Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev meet in Geneva

24 Dec

Yeltsin as first secretary of the Moscow Party Section, replacing Viktor Grishin

1986 Jan

television program Dvenadtsatyi etazh starts

24 Jan

Alexander Vlasov as minister of interior affairs



11 Feb

exchange of Anatoli Shcharansky in Berlin

20 Feb

Mir launched

25 Feb–6 Mar

27th Congress of the CPSU


Melodiya releases Beatles album

20 Apr

death of playwright Alexei Arbuzov

26 Apr

fire in reactor at Chernobyl


new logo for Vremia

05 May

Sviatoslav Fyodorov opens a center for microsurgery on the eye

13–15 May

Fifth Congress of the Filmmakers’ Union

19 May

Anatoli Dobrynin recalled as ambassador to the USA after 24 years in office

30 May

Account 904: benefit concert for Chernobyl victims

14 Aug

law permitting cooperatives

06 Oct

Garri Kasparov becomes world chess champion

11–12 Oct

Reagan and Gorbachev meet in Reykjavik

17 Oct

death of football coach Boris Arkadiev

12 Nov

opening of Soviet Foundation of Culture

19 Nov

individual work permitted

03 Dec

Gorbachev meets with the creative intelligentsia

05 Dec

Theater Union formed

08 Dec

death of the dissident Anatoli Marchenko

23 Dec

Andrei Sakharov returns to Moscow from exile in Gorky (Nizhny Novgorod)

29 Dec

death of filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky

1987 Jan

start of “experiment” in theater management

12 Jan

death of theater director Anatoli Efros

26 Jan

release of Abuladze’s film Repentance and Iuris Podnieks’s documentary Is It Easy to Be Young?


19 Feb

rehabilitation of Boris Pasternak

08 Mar

television show Do i posle polunochi, hosted by Vladimir Molchanov (closed June 1991)

25 Mar

death of animator Ivanov-Vano

28 Mar–1 Apr

Margaret Thatcher on state visit in Moscow

22 Mar

Gorbunov Culture Palace: concert of Young Musicians for Peace (with DDT, Nautilus, ChaiF)

23 May

space link on television (tele-most)


Voice of America officially transmits in the USSR

28 May

German aviator Matthias Rust lands a Cessna plane on Red Square


“market socialism” announced Theater der Welt, Stuttgart: theaters of Anatoli Vasiliev and Oleg Tabakov participate

25 Aug

decree on AIDS

02 Sept

first exhibition of Marc Chagall

13 Oct

chess championship: Garri Kasparov beats Anatoli Karpov in Seville

21 Oct

Yeltsin criticizes Gorbachev and Ligachev

24 Oct

death of footballer Nikolai Starostin


split of the Moscow Art Theater


television program Vzgliad starts


exhibition of avant-garde and Socialist Realist painting at the Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

11 Nov

Yeltsin removed from post as Moscow party chief

30 Nov

Mikhail Shatrov’s The Peace of Brest opens at Vakhtangov Theater

12 Dec

Nobel Prize for Literature to Joseph Brodsky

17 Dec

death of actor and comedian Arkadi Raikin




1988 05 Jan

control of psychiatric clinics moved from Ministry of Interior to Ministry of Health

06 Jan

name of Brezhnev removed from towns and squares

08 Jan

perestroika of the press: increased print runs of the journals Druzhba narodov and Novy mir, the newspapers Moskovskie novosti and AiF, and the weekly Ogonyok

28 Jan

end of beriozka (foreign currency) shops

04 Feb

rehabilitation of the anti-Stalin opposition (1938)

06 Feb

nuclear test in Semipalatinsk

17 Feb

suicide of musician Alexander Bashlachev

28–29 Feb

pogrom against Armenians in Sumgait

15 Mar

first Salvador Dali exhibition in Moscow

04 May

nuclear test in Semipalatinsk

7–9 May

demonstrations in Moscow

16 May

Soros begins support

17–23 May

Pepsi Cola advertisements with Michael Jackson broadcast

29 May–2 Jun

Ronald Reagan in Moscow

03 Jun

Sajudis, Lithuanian independence movement

07 Jun

first auction of modern art by Sotheby’s

13 Jun

Rehabilitation of Lev Kamenev, Karl Radek, Grigori Zinoviev (Stalin opposition of 1930s)

23 Jun

demonstrations in the Baltic states against their annexation in June 1940 by the USSR

17 Sept

premiere of Viktiuk’s The Maids


refugees from Armenia and Azerbaijan

29 Nov

jamming of Radio Liberty and Radio Liberty Europe stops

07 Dec

earthquake in Spitak, Armenia

30 Dec

death of poet and dissident Yuli Daniel


1989 12–19 Jan


19 Jan

first Malevich exhibition

23 Jan

earthquake in Tadjikistan

28 Jan

society “Memorial”

31 Jan

first McDonalds opens in Moscow

15 Feb

removal of troops from Afghanistan

09 Mar

“April” union of writers for perestroika formed

26 Mar

election for delegates for the Congress of People’s Deputies


exhibition of Andrei Shemiakin

02 May

death of Veniamin Kaverin

23 May

death of theater director Georgi Tovstonogov


theater director Yuri Liubimov receives back Soviet citizenship

25 May–9 Jun

First Congress of People’s Deputies

27 May

death of poet Arseni Tarkovsky


pogroms in Fergana

12–15 Jun

Gorbachev on state visit in West Germany

02 Jul

death of Andrei Gromyko

04 Jul

first exhibition of Vasili Kandinsky

4–6 Jul

Gorbachev in France

10 Jul

miners’ strike (Kuzbass)

15–16 Jun

civil war in Abkhazia

24 Sept

emergency power to Gorbachev for 18 months to ensure transition to market economy

6–7 Oct

Gorbachev in GDR

2–3 Dec

George H. W. Bush and Gorbachev meet in Malta

01 Dec

Gorbachev visits the pope

12–24 Dec

Second Congress of People’s Deputies




14 Dec

death of Andrei Sakharov

1990 01 Jan

Tele Sluzhba Novosti starts

17 Jan

exhibition of Russian artists in emigration at the Russian Museum, Leningrad

15 Feb

fire destroys the House of Actors in Moscow

10 Feb

pogroms in Dushanbe (Tajikistan)

11 Mar

Lithuania declares independence (Vitautas Landsbergis as president)

12–15 Mar

Third Congress of People’s Deputies, which elects Gorbachev as president; formation of the Green movement and of the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) under Zhirinovsky

10 Apr

Helicon Opera opens

16 Apr

Gavriil Popov elected mayor of Moscow (chair of Mossovet)

01 May

calls for Gorbachev’s resignation (May Day parade)

03 May

death of orthodox patriarch Pimen; succeeded by Patriarch Alexei II (7 June)

11 May

death of writer Venedikt Yerofeyev

16 May–2 Jun

First Congress of People’s Deputies of the RSFSR

23 May

Anatoli Sobchak elected mayor of Leningrad (chair of Lensovet)

29 May

Yeltsin elected chair of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR

30 May–3 Jun

Gorbachev in the USA

2–13 Jun

28th Congress of the CPSU

11 Jun

miners’ strike, Kuzbass

15 Jun

Igor Silayev as chair of the Council of Ministers of the RSFSR

17 Jul

death of writer Valentin Pikul

20 Jul

death of filmmaker Sergo Paradjanov


13 Aug

rehabilitation of writers Vladimir Voinovich, Lev Kopelev, Vasili Aksyonov, Alexander Solzhenitsyn

15 Aug

death of rock singer Viktor Tsoy

23 Aug

Gorky renamed Nizhny Novgorod

22 Aug

radio station Echo Moscow goes live

09 Sept

Father Alexander Men murdered


Nobel Prize for Peace to Gorbachev

16 Oct

reform program of “500 days”

24 Oct

nuclear test in Novaya Zemlia

26 Oct

USSR borrows money from international funds

07 Nov

attempt on Gorbachev’s life

23–25 Nov

Congress on Chechen independence

30 Nov

double-headed eagle as emblem for the Russian Federation

01 Dec

ration cards on food (vouchers)

17–27 Dec

Fourth Congress of People’s Deputies (USSR)

20 Dec

Shevardnadze resigns as foreign minister

21 Dec

newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta launched

27 Dec

7 January (Christmas) as official holiday

1991 03 Jan

beginning of diplomatic relations with Israel

09 Jan

Vzgliad removed from air

7–13 Jan

clashes in the Baltic States between Russian and national groups; Vilnius television tower seized by Russian forces

02 Feb

Radio Russia banned from union frequency

08 Feb

Leonid Kravchenko as head of VGTRK

19 Feb

Yeltsin requests Gorbachev’s resignation on television

01 Mar

strike in Kuzbass Andrei (men’s magazine) launched

07 Mar

Gubenko as minister of culture




13 Mar

Erich Honnecker (GDR) on visit to USSR

17 Mar

referendum on USSR

22 Mar

New Opera opens under conductor Yevgeni Kolobov

28 Mar

Third Congress of People’s Deputies of the RSFSR fraction (party) of Rutskoy formed 31 May

02 Apr

price rise

09 Apr

Georgia independent

19 Apr

40-hour working week, 24 days of holiday entitlement

29 Apr

earthquake in Georgia

06 May

KGB of RSFSR formed

13 May

Russian TV (RTR) begins transmission

15 May

no tax on sales

21–26 May

Fourth Congress of People’s deputies (RSFSR)

12 June

Yeltsin elected president of the RSFSR

8–9 Jun

Chechen National Congress

17 Jun

Union treaty with nine former Soviet republics

28 Jun

Union for Economic Support (SEV) disbanded

01 Jul

Warsaw Pact disbanded

01 Jul

unemployment benefits available

04 Jul

privatization of apartments possible

10 Jul

bodies of the last tsar’s family exhumed

17 Jul

G7 in London

29–31 Jul

visit of George H. W. Bush

19–21 Aug

August Coup (GKChP). Gorbachev held at Foros. Coup by Vice President Gennadi Yanayev, Vladimir Kriuchkov (KBG), Valentin Pavlov (PM), Boris Pugo (Interior), Dmitri Yazov (Defense), Vasili Starodubtsev (Peasants’ Union), Alexander Tiziakov (industry), Oleg Baklanov (security council).

22 Aug

tricolor as flag of Russia (Yeltsin)


23 Aug

companies move from union to Russian responsibility and gain economic sovereignty

24 Aug

Gorbachev resigns as head of CPSU, which is prohibited Pravda closed

30 Aug

nuclear polygon closed by Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev

05 Sept

Sverdlovsk renamed Ekaterinburg

06 Sept

Dudayev seizes power in Chechnia

07 Sept

independence of the Baltic states—Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia—recognized

06 Oct

Igor Talkov killed in Petersburg (anti-Communist songs)

07 Oct

USSR in International Monetary Fund (IMF)

12 Oct

death of sci-fi writer Arkadi Strugatsky


Leningrad renamed St. Petersburg

28 Oct–13 Nov Yeltsin authorized by Fifth Congress of People’s Deputies of the RSFSR to form a government 01 Nov

COMECON dissolves Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (also CMEA)

14 Nov

Novo-Ogarev: union with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan

08 Dec

CIS treaty at Belovezhsk: Russia, Belarus, Ukraine

14 Dec

Gagarin Party I

25 Dec

Gorbachev resigns; Yeltsin is president of the Russian Federation

1992 01 Jan

economic shock therapy (Yegor Gaidar); free prices (not fixed by state); inflation: 110 RR for one U.S. dollar, rises to 140 (March) and 334 (October)

18 Jan

Ziuganov forms Popular Patriotic Forces


Black Sea Fleet on Crimea: question of allegiance




12 Feb

Vice President Rutskoy suggests agrarian reforms

01 Mar

Dzhokhar Dudayev seizes television center in Grozny

31 Mar

Federation treaty (except Chechnya and Tatarstan)


Congress of People’s Deputies

07 May

end of state monopoly on spirits

08 May

death of puppet theater director Sergei Obraztsov

15 May

Treaty on collective security with Kazakhstan and other Central Asian republics

01 Jun

Gavriil Popov resigns as mayor of Moscow and is succeeded by Yuri Luzhkov

15 Jun

Yegor Gaidar as acting prime minister

01 Oct

voucher privatization begins

14 Dec

Chernomyrdin prime minister

1993 06 Jan

death of dancer Rudolf Nureyev

16 Mar

war between Georgia and Abkhazia; Sukhumi seized by Abkhazian forces

20 Mar

special presidential rule (decree)

23 Mar

Khasbulatov calls for impeachment of Yeltsin 600 Seconds removed from air

3–4 Apr

U.S.-Russian summit in Vancouver, British Columbia

25 Apr

referendum supports Yeltsin

24 Jul

monetary reform: bills from 1961–1991 out of use

31 Aug

Soviet troops withdraw from Lithuania

01 Sept

Rutskoy estranged from president

05 Sept

death of spy thriller and detective writer Yulian Semyonov

15 Sept

Michael Jackson in Moscow

18 Sept

Gaidar rejoins government

21 Sept

Yeltsin dissolves parliament


22 Sept

parliament appoints Rutskoy as president

3–4 Oct

storm on White House: Rutskoy and speaker Khasbulatov


600 Seconds closed completely

19 Nov

death of filmmaker Leonid Gaidai

11 Dec

patriotic song by Mikhail Glinka as new national anthem

12 Dec

parliamentary elections: LDPR 23%, Vybor Rossii 15.5%, CPRF 12.5%, Union and Accord 7%

12 Dec

referendum ratifies Russian constitution

1994 13 Jan

Bill Clinton on state visit

06 Mar

death of filmmaker Tengiz Abuladze

11–13 May

Yeltsin visits Germany

23 May

Burnt by the Sun wins Grand Prix in Cannes

27 May

Solzhenitsyn returns to Russia


Cosmopolitan launched

07 Jun

attempt on Berezovsky’s life

11 Jun

fight against pyramid schemes (MMM)

16 Jun

Gaidar resigns as deputy PM

10 Jul

Leonid Kuchma elected president in Ukraine; Alexander Lukashenka in Belarus

19 Jul

civil war in Chechnya


G7 in Naples


MMM collapses

26 Sept

Cathedral of Christ the Savior to be rebuilt

04 Oct

premiere of Vladimir Mashkov’s A Fatal Number

05 Oct

miners’ strike: unpaid salaries

11 Oct

roble crash (one U.S. dollar from 3,000 to 3,900 RR)

17 Oct

death of Dmitri Kholodov (Moskovsky komsomolets)

20 Oct

death of filmmaker and Oscar winner Sergei Bondarchuk




29 Nov

ORT as 51% state-owned shareholding company

11 Dec

Russian army into Chechnya

1995 01 Mar

murder of television presenter and ORT head Vlad Listiev

27 Mar

Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for Nikita Mikhalkov’s Burnt by the Sun

05 Apr

Tretiakov Gallery reopened after refurbishment

12 May

foundation of the party Nash Dom– Rossiya (Our House, Russia [NDR])

27–28 May

earthquake on Sakhalin

09 Jun

Black Sea Fleet divided between Russia (80%) and Ukraine (20%)

14–20 Jun

Chechens take hostages at Budenovsk

15–17 Jun

summit at Halifax

11 Jul

Yeltsin in hospital: heart attack

13 Jul

state prosecutor against NTV for interview with Basayev and program “Kukly”

26 Oct

Yeltsin suffers second heart attack Iversk Gates open on Red Square


release of Rogozhkin’s Peculiarities of the National Hunt

17 Dec

parliamentary elections: NDR, Chernomyrdin: 10%; CP, Ziuganov: 22%; LDPR, Zhirinovsky: 11%; Yabloko, Yavlinsky: 7%

1996 09 Jan

Ministry of Foreign Affairs handed from Kozyrev to Primakov

16 Jan

Seleznyov (Communist Party) as chairman of the Duma

17–19 Jan

Chechens seize Turkish ship

28 Jan

death of poet and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Brodsky

28 Feb

RF member of European Council


15 Mar

release of Sergei Bodrov’s (Sr.) Prisoner of the Mountains

29 Mar/2 Apr

union agreements with Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan

21 Apr

death of Dudayev; succeeded by Zelim Khan Yandarbayev

27 May

ceasefire in Chechnya

02 Jun

Yakovlev beats Anatoli Sobchak in election as mayor of St. Petersburg

11 Jun

terrorist attack on Tulskaya metro station and trolleybuses near Rossiya Hotel and Alexeyevskaya metro

16 Jun

presidential elections (69.8% participation): Yeltsin 35%, Ziuganov 32%


S. Lisovsky and A. Evstafiev caught in the act of removing cash from the House of Government, arrested; Chubais accused of embezzlement, but cleared; Barsukov (KGB) and A. Korzhakov (bodyguard) fired as they ordered the arrest of Yeltsin aides

03 Jul

second round of presidential elections: Yeltsin with 53.7% (Ziuganov 40%)

10 Jul

death of musician Sergei Kuryokhin

25 Jul

death of composer Mikhail Tariverdiyev


premiere of Yuri Butusov’s Waiting for Godot with Khabensky and Trukhin

05 Aug

Chechen rebels retake Grozny

31 Aug

Lebed and Aslan Maskhadov sign peace accord

17 Oct

General Lebed resigns

20 Oct

Rutskoy elected governor of the Kursk region

30 Oct

Berezovsky as deputy of Presidential Security Council

5 Nov–23 Dec

Yeltsin undergoes heart by-pass operation and leaves Chernomyrdin in charge

23 Nov

death of composer Edison Denisov




01 Dec

troops withdrawn from Chechnya

1997 01 Jan

new criminal code

27 Jan

Maskhadov elected president of Chechnya

31 Jan

Bodrov’s Prisoner released in USA

25 Feb

death of writer and dissident Andrei Siniavsky

21 Mar

Yeltsin and Clinton meet in Helsinki

12 May

peace agreement with Chechnya

17 May

release of Balabanov’s Brother

26 May

Union charter with Belarus (effective as of 11 June)

09 Jun

TV Center founded for the 850th anniversary of Moscow

12 Jun

death of poet and bard Bulat Okudzhava

18 Jun

death of writer and dissident Lev Kopelev

23 Jun

Novye izvestiya opened after editor Golembiovsky removed from office by investor LukOil

27 Jun

end of civil war in Tajikistan

21 Aug

death of circus director Yuri Nikulin

26 Aug

Kultura opens as television channel of VGTRK

27 Dec

New Opera opens its new building in the Hermitage Gardens, Moscow

1998 1 Jan

denomination of the ruble

04 Jan

Streets of Broken Lights starts on TNT

23 Mar

Yeltsin sacks cabinet; Kirienko replaces Chernomyrdin as prime minister (24 April)

17 May

General Lebed elected governor of the Krasnoyarsk region

17 Jul

interment of the tsar’s family in Petersburg

03 Aug

death of composer Alfred Schnittke


17 Aug

“default” (devaluation of ruble): 90-day moratorium on bank transactions

23 Aug

Yeltsin sacks cabinet; Chernomyrdin replaces Kirienko as interim PM; Chernomyrdin twice not confirmed as PM by government

24 Aug

first issue of Vogue

1–2 Sept

Clinton in Moscow

11 Sept

Yevgeni Primakov replaces Chernomyrdin

06 Oct

death of actor Rolan Bykov


British hostages Camilla Carr and John James freed from Chechen captivity (held since July 1997)

26 Oct

100th anniversary of the Moscow Art Theater

29 Oct

Inkombank bankrupt

20 Nov

Russian Parliament member Galina Starovoitova murdered

1999 20 Feb

premiere of The Barber of Siberia

18 Mar

release of Rogozhkin’s Checkpoint

24 Mar

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombs Yugoslavia

29 Mar

Putin as head of FSB (Federal Security Bureau)

12 May

Yeltsin sacks cabinet; Sergei Stepashin replaces Primakov as prime minister

15 May

impeachment vote against Yeltsin fails

19 May

Stepashin confirmed as PM

22 June

Andreyev Bridge moved from Luzhniki to Neskuchny Garden

07 Aug

beginning of Second Chechen campaign (war)

09 Aug

Stepashin dismissed; succeeded by Vladimir Putin (16 Aug)

29 Aug

formation of SPS (Soyuz pravykh sil, Union of Right Forces) under Sergei Kirienko, Boris Nemtsov, Irina Khakamada

31 Aug

bomb explosion in Okhotny Ryad shopping mall




08 Sept

bomb in Moscow apartment block in Pechatniki

13 Sept

bomb in Moscow apartment block on Kashirkoye Chausee

24 Sept

formation of Unity party (Edinstvo) under I. Shoigu

20 Sept

death of Raisa Gorbacheva


premiere of the musical Metro

19 Dec

Duma elections: CPRF, Ziuganov 24%; Unity, Shoigu 23%; OVR, Primakov, Luzhkov 13%; SPS, Yabloko, Zhirinovsky bloc

31 Dec

Yeltsin resigns, leaving Vladimir Putin as acting president

2000 02 Jan

Kamenskaya starts on NTV

15 Jan

Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky disappears

19 Jan–25 Feb

Andrei Babitsky held hostage in Chechnya

20 Feb

death of Anatoli Sobchak

09 Mar

death of Artyom Borovik (journal Sovershenno sekretno) in a plane crash


Grishkovets at the Golden Mask Festival, Moscow

26 Mar

Putin elected president

28 Mar

Oscar to Alexander Petrov for best animation for The Old Man and the Sea

30 Mar

release of Kachanov’s DMB

01 May

Criminal Petersburg starts on NTV

11 May

search of Media Most (NTV) offices

11 May

release of Balabanov’s Brother 2

17 May

Mikhail Kasianov as prime minister

24 May

death of actor, director, and head of Moscow Art Theater Oleg Yefremov

02 Jun

death of eye-surgeon Sviatoslav Fyodorov


2–5 Jun

Clinton in Moscow

13 Jun

Vladimir Gusinsky arrested for embezzlement

12 Jun

Akhmad Kadyrov designated president of Chechnya

15 Jun

death of playwright Grigori Gorin


raid on Media Most offices

08 Aug

bomb explosion in Pushkin Square pedestrian subway

12 Aug

explosion on the Kursk submarine

25 Aug

death of filmmaker and scriptwriter Valeri Priyomykhov

27 Aug

fire on Ostankino television tower

09 Sept

Sergei Dorenko sacked from ORT


Berezovsky under pressure to surrender ORT shares

17 Nov

GazProm settles share issue with Media Most

20 Nov

death of animator Viacheslav Kotyonochkin

07 Dec

death of children’s writer Boris Zakhoder


Soviet national anthem reintroduced

2001 21 Feb

arrest of Anna Politkovskaya


cabinet reshuffle

04 Apr

NTV journalists strike; new management

18 Apr

premiere of Serebrennikov’s Plasticine

10 May

release of Bodrov’s (Jr.) Sisters


Masiania launched on

19 Oct

premiere of Nord-Ost

28 Oct

death of filmmaker Grigori Chukhrai

2002 Jan

TV6 closes

14 Mar

release of War


premiere of Dracula (musical)




06 Apr

release of Anti-Killer

21 May

premiere of Notre Dame de Paris

09 Jun

riots after soccer match Russia-Japan


Russian military helicopter crashes in Chechen minefield: 115 dead

20 Sept

death of Sergei Bodrov Jr. and his film crew

04 Oct

premiere of Chicago

12 Oct

premiere of 42nd Street

30 Oct

premiere of Oxygen

23–26 Oct 800 hostages at Moscow Theater (Nord Ost): 120 dead Nov

premiere of Terrorism (Moscow Arts Theater)


suicide bombers in Moscow-backed Chechen government in Grozny

2003 08 Feb

revival of Nord-Ost

28 Feb

newspaper Novye Izvestiya suspended


Chechen referendum

24 Mar

TaTu at Jay Leno’s

31 Mar

release of Baltser’s Don’t Even Think


suicide bombers attack Chechen government in Grozny; Kadyrov escapes narrowly

10 May

Nord-Ost closed

27 May

300th Anniversary of St. Petersburg


suicide bomber on bus near Mozdok TV6 successor, TVS, axed

16 June

death of Novaya Opera conductor Yevgeni Kolobov

28 June

release of Buslov’s Bimmer

06 July

suicide bomb at rock festival in Tushchino, Moscow


suicide bomb at military hospital in Mozdok, Ossetia


06 Sep

The Return wins the Golden Lion in Venice


border dispute with Ukraine (agreement in December)

25 Oct

arrest of Yukos manager Mikhail Khodorkovsky (fraud, tax evasion)

27 Oct

death of filmmaker Elem Klimov

08 Nov

premiere of Twelve Chairs

10 Nov

Lines of Fate starts on RTR

25 Nov

release of Anti-Killer 2

07 Dec

Duma elections: CP 12.5%; Edinaya Rossiya 37.5%; LDPR 11.5%; Rodina 9%

09 Dec

suicide bomb near National Hotel, Moscow

2004 22 Jan

KinoPark multiplex opened

06 Feb

terrorist attack in the Moscow metro station Avtozavodskaya

14 Feb

collapse of roof in Transvaal leisure center, Moscow

24 Feb

Putin dismisses Prime Minister Kasianov and cabinet

09 Mar

new cabinet under Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov; reorganization of ministerial apparatus

14 Mar

fire in the Manège exhibition hall

14 Mar

presidential elections: Putin gains 57% of the votes



Although the term popular culture is appropriate for contemporary Russian culture, it was, in a sense, contradictory to the entire Soviet ethos. The Soviet regime wanted to educate its people in a particular ideological context, namely that of communism. It wanted to create a sophisticated, high culture, raising the general levels of education of the working class rather than pander to an audience. The term mass culture remained synonymous with commercial and bourgeois throughout the Soviet period. A parallel can be drawn, however, between mass culture in the capitalist world, serving commercial aims, and mass culture in the USSR, serving a political aim (Macdonald 1998). In this introduction I recapitulate Soviet cultural history in the light of mass appeal and popular taste before exploring concepts of popular culture.

After the Revolution The October Revolution of 1917 was supported by a great number of artists, who put their art at the service of the Revolutionary cause. The Revolution had an enormous impact on cultural life in general, and on theater and cinema in particular, as a potential tool for agitation among the masses and the propagation of socialist ideas. The theater director Vsevolod Meyerhold (1874–1940), who had staged rather grandiose productions at the Imperial Alexandrinsky Theater in St. Petersburg before the Revolution, instantly declared that he would dedicate his art to socialism. Along with the young directors Sergei Eisenstein, Nikolai Yevreinov, and Nikolai Okhlopkov, Meyerhold favored spectacles that would both stun and actively involve the audience. A striking example of this was Yevreinov’s Storming of the Winter Palace (Vziatie zimnego dvortsa), performed on 7 November 1920 for 100,000 spectators with 8,000 participants directed over a field phone. A celebration of the Revolution, the spectacle underlined the theatricalization of life (it was based on the real events of the Bolshevik seizure of the tsar’s residence) and the politicization of art while involving the masses. Artists continued to theatricalize political themes in the years immediately after the Revolution. The poet and playwright Vladimir Mayakovsky


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not only wrote plays that advertised the advantages of the new Bolshevik regime and mocked the remnants of the bourgeois lifestyle but also wrote slogans for posters that supported the Revolution. The artist and designer Alexander Rodchenko designed political posters and worked as a photographer. The artist Varvara Stepanova designed proletarian fashion. Sergei Eisenstein made his acclaimed film, The Battleship Potyomkin (Bronenosets Potemkin, 1925), at the state’s command. Avant-garde artists may have actively supported the Revolution in the 1920s, but connection to the masses was not that straightforward. Crowds may have attended the first of the mass spectacles in 1920, but they did not wear Stepanova’s proletarian collection, nor did they crowd Meyerhold’s experimental theater where the actors moved with machine-like movement to demonstrate their subordination to a larger mechanism (and the director’s will); and they certainly did not pack the cinemas to see The Battleship Potyomkin. It may have been “the best film of all times,” according to a critics’ poll in 1958, but it was no hit in the USSR. In fact, it was a flop, reaching only 70,000 viewers in the first two weeks of a mere four-week run. Meanwhile, Soviet audiences flocked to the cinema to see American films starring Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks (Robin Hood was Potyomkin’s stiffest competitor). In the late 1920s, the melodrama, best represented by Abram Room’s Bed and Sofa (Tret’ia Meshchanskaia, 1927), could easily attract more than a million viewers within six months. Konstantin Eggert’s melodrama The Bear’s Wedding (Medvezh’ia svad’ba, 1926), Boris Barnet’s comedy The Cigarette Girl from Mosselprom (Papirosnitsa ot Mossel’prom, 1924), and Ivan Perestiani’s adventure Little Red Devils (Krasnye

d’iavoliata, 1923) emerged as the most profitable, if internationally least acclaimed, films. The experiment in art that was conducted by the avant-garde failed with the masses, who wanted to see emotionally engaging films, watch theater where they could suffer with the protagonists, and wear fashionable, not artistic and experimental, clothes. Consequently, the avantgarde fell out of favor with the Communist leadership, which was concerned with the use of art to reach the masses. For this purpose the concept of Socialist Realism, stipulating a portrayal of the Soviet Union in its development toward the ideal of communism, was adopted in 1934 as the only mode of artistic expression. Lenin may have supported a certain diversity of artistic forms, those that appealed to the masses as well as those that engaged in experimentation and sought new forms of expression. Yet after Lenin’s death in 1924, and certainly by the late 1920s and early 1930s, artistic movements were streamlined. Single unions were created, such as the Soviet Unions of Composers, of Artists, of Cinematographers, of Theater Workers, of Writers, and so on, in order to ensure that all artists would express themselves in a way that was understood by the masses and—needless to say—that was ideologically correct. This new art was to advertise the utopia of communism: the bright future toward which the country was rapidly progressing, even though it was in reality struggling with economic mismanagement, famines, war, and the purges. In cinema, a directive was issued to educate and enlighten the masses through film. Foreign film imports were stopped, and the audience was fed a solid Soviet diet. In 1935 Boris Shumiatsky, the new head of the Soviet film industry, launched


an appeal for a “cinema for the millions”; he implemented a rigid campaign against formalism in cinema, practically annihilating the great experiments in Soviet cinema of the 1920s. The entertainment value of a film presented suitable packaging whereby the ideological message would reach the masses. The blockbuster became a tool for ideology. At the same time, popular elements (comic or melodramatic genres, the promotion of stars, the inclusion of mass and folk songs) were incorporated into official Stalinist culture. The popular films of the 1930s all relied on a simple narrative and conventional style, with a linear plot, reducing complex issues to a level that could be understood by the masses. The hero Chapayev can explain his complex military strategy with the help of potatoes. Folksy tunes and triumphant marches such as “Black Raven” (“Chernyi voron,” in the Vasiliev brothers’ [Georgi and Sergei] Chapayev, 1934) and “Song of the Motherland” (“Pesnia o rodine,” in Grigori Alexandrov’s Circus, 1936) assisted the plot and even became hits in their own right. The Stalinist musical comedies were blockbusters, loved by the audiences for their glorified and glossy demonstration of life through the beautiful, feminine characters played by Marina Ladynina and Liubov Orlova; they were loved for showing the victory of those Soviet ideals that the population was forced to believe in and for the predictability of their plots. In theater, the experiments of Meyerhold and other avant-garde directors were stopped, and Konstantin Stanislavsky’s psychological realism was elevated to the “method.” For the next fifty years, the actor’s training would rely on this “method,” which drew exclusively on emotional experience for a psychologically convincing character portrayal, allowing the spectator


to experience the same emotions as the character but never inviting him to think or interact with the stage world behind the socalled fourth wall. Stalin simplified the cultural discourse to make it accessible to the masses and used those tools that promised mass appeal as packaging for simple tales. Socialist Realism—the projection of the bright future of the USSR into a simple, linear plot and a realistic form—was the only artistic form of expression tolerated by the Soviet regime. Consumerism was a marginal feature of everyday life; excess and luxury were part of a special elitist culture to which only the privileged had access. Toward the end of Stalin’s life, cultural activity in the USSR was almost dead: the purges had exterminated a number of great experimenters; World War II had taken the lives of many artists; the campaign in 1949 against “cosmopolitans” (a euphemism for Jews) had taken its toll. Culture, high and low, was struggling to find means of expression; appealing to the masses was a secondary consideration after the main one: ideological and political correctness. At this point in history it had also become obvious that Socialist Realism, which excludes the notion of conflict (other than between the evil aggressor and the Soviet hero), precluded the notion of tension, thus limiting the emotional or intellectual challenge of its artistic product. Here the relaxation that was brought on with Nikita Khrushchev’s Thaw took effect.

After World War II The Thaw had begun with Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech” at the Twentieth Party Congress in 1956, in which he disclosed the crimes of the Stalin era. A period of liberal-


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ization, both in political and cultural terms, began. The Thaw had a number of positive effects on cultural life. Works that were critical of Soviet society, such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Odin den’ Ivana Denisovicha, 1962) about life in a prison camp, were published. New theaters opened, including the Sovremennik and Taganka. In cinema a move occurred away from the glorification of collective Soviet heroism toward an individual heroism. Modern art was publicly displayed in major exhibitions, such as the Picasso exhibition in 1956 or the scandalous Manège exhibition of 1962, when Khrushchev labeled the abstract paintings in the exhibition as “sh** ” and their painters “sodomites.” Artistic cafés opened in Moscow in 1961. Moreover, there was the celebration of the International Youth Festival in Moscow in 1957. The Thaw also had a reverse side, however, that reflected the struggle within the party between hardliners and reformers. The reformist uprising in Hungary was crushed in 1956. In 1958, Boris Pasternak was forced to reject the Nobel Prize for Literature, which he had been awarded for his novel Doctor Zhivago, published in Italy. The poet Joseph Brodsky was arrested in 1964 for “parasitism” (tuneyadstvo, not having a job). These examples underscore the process of hard-line Communists gaining the upper hand. The tension between the two factions in the Central Committee of the Communist Party climaxed with the removal of Khrushchev from office in October 1964. The Thaw, to a certain extent, exposed the low quality of Stalinist culture: the cheap gloss of the Stalinist musicals, the false tone of Socialist Realist literature, the stale nature of theatrical performance. In

the postwar period the taste for Western culture grew rapidly among those who had been brought up during the war but had never fought in it: often children of single mothers whose fathers had died in the war. This generation was tired of the official version of war, the glorification of life in the collective farm (kolkhoz), and industrial progress. Instead, they preferred a pseudoWestern lifestyle. The satirical magazine Krokodil (Crocodile) defined them as “stilyagi”; they were mocked as uneducated dandies, concerned with appearance rather than intellectual achievement. In this sense they were the extreme opposite of what the Soviet Union wanted its youth to be and therefore the first sign of a rebellion against the officially prescribed cultural diet. Detective and spy stories thrived in the postwar period: on the one hand, they provided the background for a conflict between an enemy and a Soviet hero; on the other hand, they were a pale reflection of the American spy thrillers à la Alfred Hitchcock. Yulian Semyonov emerged as one of the most popular writers of the period, creating the hero-figure Stirlitz, a Soviet spy in Nazi Germany. His works were later serialized for television and have become part of Russian popular culture in the form of anecdotes. Mass song, which proliferated in the 1930s owing to the advent of sound film, was confronted by the bard movement, which distributed its recordings by the modest means of illegal tape recordings (magnitizdat). Magnitizdat implied the creation of an altogether more individualized product that was spread through a personal and private distribution system. In 1956 Radio Moscow replaced the film music “Song of the Motherland” (from Circus) with “Suburban Moscow Evenings”


(“Podmoskovnye vechera”). Estrada, or pop music, emulated Western styles, setting trivial lyrics to fine tunes. Jazz music was prohibited for public performance: it involved an element of improvisation, and this unpredictable quality made the censors always nervous. Illegal copies of jazz music were circulated in the 1960s, however, including American jazz music by Glenn Miller, Bing Crosby, and Louis Armstrong. The musical comedy copied the behavior and looks of Western musical stars rather than dwelling on propaganda plots (for example, Eldar Riazanov’s Carnival Night [Karnaval’naia noch’], 1956), and American films were back in the cinemas, turning Tarzan into the most popular film of the postwar years. Film demonumentalized the past: heroes became simple human beings rather than superhuman characters. Cinema thus began to deconstruct its grand narratives of the 1930s: the emphasis shifted in historical films from collective heroism to the deeds of the individual. This is evident in the treatment of World War II in Mikhail Kalatozov’s The Cranes Are Flying (Letiat zhuravli, 1957), Pavel Chukhrai’s The FortyFirst (Sorok pervyi, 1956) and Ballad of a Soldier (Ballada o soldate, 1959), and Alexander Stolper’s Living and Dead (Zhivye i mertvye, 1964), all of which enjoyed great popularity both at home and abroad. They attracted between 25 and 30 million viewers each. Kalatozov’s The Cranes Are Flying received the Palme d’Or in Cannes in 1958; Chukhrai’s The FortyFirst and his Ballad of a Soldier were shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 1957 and 1960 respectively. Cranes was only tenth in the box-office charts at the time of its release, however, thus not the most popular film of its year. The international suc-


cess of these films can be attributed to the common experience of World War II and shared conventions of the portrayal of the war hero in Russian and European culture, which made them international mainstream rather than national blockbusters. The Thaw bore upon the theater in a variety of ways: first, a new generation of playwrights emerged with Leonid Zorin, Viktor Rozov, Alexander Shtein, and others. Second, young and promising directors were appointed to head prestigious theaters. Most significant for the future were the appointments of Georgi Tovstonogov to the Bolshoi Drama Theater (BDT) in Leningrad; Anatoli Efros to the Lenin Komsomol Theater, Moscow; and Yuri Liubimov to the Taganka Theater of Drama and Comedy, Moscow. Third, new theaters were founded, such as the Sovremennik (Contemporary) in Moscow under Oleg Yefremov. The plays of Viktor Rozov provided the impulse for young directors to explore further the psychological realism of Stanislavsky. Rozov’s plays focused on “young boys,” children on the way to adulthood, and therefore appealed to a theater that wanted to create a hero with whom both actor and audience could easily identify psychologically. His plays became the main source for the repertoire of Anatoli Efros and Oleg Yefremov. In Rozov’s In Search of Joy (V poiskakh radosti, 1957), the hero demolishes a piece of furniture, symbol of the petty bourgeoisie, with his father’s saber; the gesture accompanying this act became symbolic for the break with tradition. The Sovremennik started as a studio of the Moscow Arts Theater (Moskovskii khudozhestvennyi akademicheskii teatr, MkhAT) School under Yefremov, opening in 1957 with Rozov’s Alive Forever (Vechno zhivye). Yefremov had begun acting at a


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time when monumental realism was receding. He did not aim at outward verisimilitude and consciously combined a stylized, abstract set with the everyday realism of “kitchen sink drama,” emerging on the British stage at about the same time. In 1956, Georgi Tovstonogov (1913– 1989) was appointed chief artistic director of the BDT in Leningrad. Tovstonogov merged the approaches of Stanislavsky and Meyerhold, stylization with authenticity and figurativeness with psychological analysis. Tovstonogov’s repertoire included contemporary plays, classics, and prose adaptations. A remarkable production was the adaptation of Lev Tolstoy’s Strider: The Story of a Horse (Kholstomer, 1975). Sackcloth was draped around the stage, and the costumes were made from the same material. The actors playing horses wore leather straps around their heads and bodies as a harness, imprisoning the body. Tovstonogov made ample use of cinematic devices, such as a disembodied voice reading texts or assuming a narrator function. Tovstonogov interpreted the condition of the horse as a tragic metaphor for human life, creating at the same time an allegory for the deformation of nature by claiming it as human property. His concern rested with the universal rather than with explicit social criticism. Tovstonogov never was a controversial figure. The opposite is true for the enfant terrible of Soviet theater, Yuri Liubimov (b. 1917). Liubimov had noticed the dangerous uniformity in Soviet theater and abhorred the use of makeup, costumes, and decorative props. With his acting class, he staged in 1963 Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan, in which he mastered the concept of Brecht’s epic theater. The Good Person was set on a bare stage; posters

decorated the sides; panels indicated locations; songs were used for comment, and a musical rhythm set the pace of the production; choreographed movement replaced verbal action. These elements, drawn from Brecht and Meyerhold, characterized Liubimov’s style of the 1960s. The message of the production—the individual’s solidarity with the people—enhanced the strong sociopolitical stance of the theater. The range of theatrical devices was fully explored in the initial years but especially vividly in Ten Days that Shook the World (Desiat’ dnei, kotorye potriasli mir, 1965), based on John Reed’s account of the Revolution. Liubimov drew heavily on the devices of circus, shadow play, folk theater, agitational theater, and documentary theater to create a revolutionary spectacle. The integration of the audience into the festive revolutionary atmosphere served to deprive history of its magnificence and private life of its seclusion. Like many other directors of his time, Liubimov staged prose adaptations and poetic montages to establish a repertoire in the absence of genuinely good drama. Liubimov’s theater therefore is an “author’s theater” (avtorskii teatr): the director composes the text and offers his personal interpretation in the production. The Sovremennik and the Taganka as well as the BDT in Leningrad were the most popular theaters in the two cities: tickets were almost impossible to obtain.

After the Thaw The period that followed under Leonid Brezhnev’s leadership is commonly called the period of “stagnation,” as it consolidated Communist rule through pragmatic policies rather than opening an ideological


debate about the adaptation of communism to contemporary society. The period is characterized by a much more aggressive policy, manifested in internal politics in the arrest of Andrei Siniavsky and Yuli Daniel in 1966 for publishing abroad under the pseudonyms of Abram Terts and Nikolai Arzhak and in foreign politics in the intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968. This increased suppression of opposition led to the emergence of a dissident movement that began formally with a letter protesting against Soviet foreign policy in 1967, signed by a number of members of the Soviet Writers’ Union. In the late 1970s, the stagnation led to a dearth of activity in Soviet cultural life. Many artists and intellectuals had emigrated in the first half of the 1970s, when the wave of emigration to Israel had ripped a large hole in intelligentsia circles. In 1972 the Leningrad poet Joseph Brodsky had been expelled and in 1974 Solzhenitsyn deported from the USSR. In 1970 the liberal editor in chief of the leading literary journal Novy Mir, Alexander Tvardovsky, had been removed from office. All these acts of repression were now showing their effects on cultural life while, in terms of cultural politics, the stifling atmosphere continued. In 1974 the open-air exhibition of modern art in the Moscow suburb Beliayevo was torn down by bulldozers (the so-called Bulldozer Exhibition). In 1975, when Andrei Sakharov was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, he was not permitted to leave for the ceremony in Stockholm; in 1980 he was exiled to Gorky (now Nizhny Novgorod) and later placed under house arrest. In 1978 the dissident Anatoli Shcharansky was arrested; the writer Vasili Aksyonov was exiled in 1981. In 1979, Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan, causing an of-


ficial boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow by the Americans and several other Western states. Many writers could not publish their works and instead resorted to the so-called samizdat (selfpublishing typescripts with carbon paper— in the absence of photocopiers). A last attempt at opposition was manifested through the underground publication of the almanac Metropol, uniting works that were not accepted for publication in the Soviet Union. The doom and gloom of the late 1970s was offset, however, by activities in the artistic underground, including studio and amateur theater and “private” art exhibitions (the so-called apartment exhibitions [kvartirnye vystavki]). The songs of the bard Vladimir Vysotsky voiced opposition to the system by addressing taboo issues such as alcoholism and drugs. Filmmakers attempted to provide relief through blockbusters that distracted with exotic settings and exhilarating plots. Whereas the 1960s had been governed by clampdown, censorship, and bans, the 1970s saw deportations, exile, and house arrest. The dissidents’ fight within the country had given way to the elimination of the opposition through the state. Many dissonant voices withdrew into the rural idyll, writing prose that was set in the villages and the countryside, inspired by folk traditions and rituals, with characters speaking the coarse language of rural Russia. This retreat, which may seem regressive and conservative, was in fact a form of opposition to the dominant cultural discourse. At the same time, the Brezhnev years were a period of relative material growth and economic stability. Products were in supply, jobs available, pensions paid, accommodation improving, transport systems expanding. A “second economy”


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(black market and underground culture) flourished to satisfy the demand for “deficit” products. Lavish state rituals, monumental parades, and holiday celebrations went hand in hand with the cult of the leader, Brezhnev. They covered up the increasing dissatisfaction with the system that reduced the individual to a marionette. On an international level, Soviet music was represented by the folk ensembles of Igor Moiseyev, Pavel Virsky (Ukraine), and Boris Alexandrov (Soviet Army Ensemble). The other showcases of Soviet culture were the Bolshoi and Kirov (Mariinsky) Ballets, the internationally acclaimed and politically controversial filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, and the ideologically sound circus stunts of Oleg Popov with the Moscow State Circus. At home, Tarkovsky was by no means the most popular filmmaker; the people’s favorites were the comedy filmmakers Eldar Riazanov, Leonid Gaidai, and Georgi Daneliya, whereas the folk ensembles attracted great numbers—of tourists. As the number of television sets in households was increasing, the pop stars Mark Bernes and Iosif Kobzon appeared on television with their patriotic and elegiac songs, accompanied by Soviet bands. Another popular singer was Zhanna Bichevskaya, who presented a mix of folk and country music based on northern Russian folk songs. In those years the pop singers Alexandra Pakhmutova, Alla Pugacheva, and Valeri Leontiev made their debuts. The cabaret actor Arkadi Raikin, whose mockery of the system was combined with a high level of compassion for human flaws, moved from Leningrad to Moscow in 1981 and frequently appeared on television. His “heir,” Mikhail Zhvanetsky, enjoys popularity to the present day. The level of reading was unusually high in the Soviet Union. This fact was deployed

to advocate the standards of Soviet readers in contrast with the capitalist (supposedly “uneducated”) West. The science fiction literature of the Strugatsky brothers (Arkadi and Boris), the spy thrillers of Yulian Semyonov, and the historical novels of Valentin Pikul were at the top in the lists of best-selling (that is, “most wanted”) books. Soviet fiction of the period was characterized by the absence of violence and sex but also void of descriptions of fashion and appearance that are so characteristic of Western “trash” literature. Censorship interfered heavily with the creation of new repertoires in the late 1960s when, during the Twenty-Third Party Congress in 1966, several critical and controversial productions were banned, such as Alexander Tvardovsky’s Tyorkin in the Other World (Terkin v tom svete) and Eduard Radzinsky’s A Film Is Being Shot (Snimaetsia kino). Efros was dismissed for “ideological shortcomings” in 1967. Cultural policy continued along a reactionary line in the 1970s. The Twenty-Fifth Party Congress of 1976 promoted the “production theme” in drama, compelling playwrights to show the hero at work. Since such plays were not very attractive for the audience, the theaters instead adapted prose works. Young directors started to work under the auspices of the established theaters, however, which opened so-called small stages in the late 1970s for experimental work, allowing also for a more intimate contact with the audience. Censorship also interfered in the making of films. Andrei Konchalovsky’s Asya’s Happiness (Asino schast’e, also known as “Istoriia Asi Kliachinoi, kotoraia liubila da i ne vyshla zamuzh . . . ,” 1966, released 1988) was shelved for portraying the life of a single mother, living in a collective farm (kolkhoz), who prefers to raise her child


alone rather than marry the child’s alcoholic father. Kira Muratova’s Short Encounters (Korotkie vstrechi, 1967, released 1987) was shelved—along with the sequel Long Farewells (Dolgie provody, 1971, released 1987)—for the portrayal of the unsettled lifestyle of a geologist, played by Vladimir Vysotsky. Alexander Askoldov’s The Commissar (Komissar, 1967) was banned for positively showing the life of the Jewish population in Berdichev and for portraying the life of a Bolshevik commissar who has a child out of wedlock. Konchalovsky emigrated, Muratova did not make her next film until the 1980s, and Askoldov never made another film. During the stifled cultural atmosphere of the Brezhnev years, the state tried to promote “high” culture in order to demonstrate the educated status of the Soviet people while driving those areas of culture that were wanted by the masses (rock, jazz, detective and crime fiction) into the underground. The divide between high and low culture is more complex in Soviet culture than in Western cultures: any experiment is dissident, and therefore experimental art (art-house film, abstract art, jazz music) was part of underground culture. The art conceived for the few was wanted by the masses as a “forbidden fruit.” Because forbidden, underground culture appealed by definition to a much broader range of people than the intelligentsia— that spectrum of Soviet society that saw itself in dissent with the political system and at the same time defined itself as its chief perpetrator and advocate of moral values. The official and politically correct culture was, as it were, for the masses. Popular culture, on the other hand, was what the masses were craving: dissident and Western culture. At the same time popular culture also encompassed official culture,


which was made widely available by the system of distribution. Consequently, mass culture contained elements of the official (which was kitsch because it was official) and of the underground culture (which was exotic because forbidden). Thus, the bard Vladimir Vysotsky is part of dissident popular culture, as is the Taganka Theater. The comedies of Leonid Gaidai and the television spy thriller Seventeen Moments of Spring (17 mgnovenii vesny), on the other hand, are popular culture. It is worth noting that critical attention and international recognition have often focused on dissident popular culture. This, however, should not imply that the Taganka Theater or Vysotsky are “high” culture. Rather, they are part of a popular culture that—at the time—included both high and low forms.

After Brezhnev When Gorbachev took up office in 1985 he replaced, within a year, most of the hardliners in key positions in the cultural sector. Vasili Zakharov was appointed minister of culture, succeeding Peter Demichev. Boris Yeltsin took over the Moscow City Committee from Viktor Grishin. At the Central Committee level, Yegor Ligachev became responsible for ideology in the Secretariat, succeeding Mikhail Zimianin, and the reformer Alexander Yakovlev was put in charge of the Department of Agitprop. Gorbachev invited the so-called creative intelligentsia to a meeting on 3 December 1986, during which he encouraged a process of liberalization in the arts. His encouragement very quickly translated into action. The reform of artistic unions was the first step in this direction: the filmmaker Elem Klimov took over the Filmmakers’ Union, setting up a commis-


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sion to release the films shelved by the censors; in the theater Mark Zakharov took the lead in arguing for the responsibility of theater repertoires to be removed from the city authorities and handed over to the Theater Union, while encouraging experiment in the theaters. The Union of Writers established a committee that rehabilitated writers and released documents from the state archive, including the archive of the KGB (Komitet gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti); the editors of literary journals were encouraged to publish formerly banned texts. In this sense, glasnost lifted the lid from the barrel of forbidden, banned, and suppressed art. This sudden release swept to the surface a whole new culture. The thirst for the censored, forbidden culture was, for a while, greater than that for the “popular,” the taste of which would come with the onset of more commercial terms of cultural production after 1991. Cultural taste in the Gorbachev period (1985–1991) has to be seen in the light of the previous withdrawal. The popularity of certain novels, songs, films, television, or radio programs was directly related to the taboo themes they touched upon and the new areas they opened up for investigation. Popularity in the Gorbachev era therefore depended not so much on taste as on the wish to taste the forbidden fruit. Indeed, in the Soviet cultural context, the demand for classical Western literature should be seen not just as a sign of the high level of education but as an indication of the possibility to access any cultural products from the West. The popularity of released art-house movies, of historical novels about the blank pages of Soviet history, and of the lyrics rather than the tunes of rock music has to be read in the context of an “artificial” popular taste in the late 1980s.

The New Russia This book covers the media, music, performing and visual arts, sports, religious tradition, and consumer culture in the New Russia. Each chapter begins with the cultural history of the Soviet era to provide a context for developments in the 1980s and 1990s, before exploring each phenomenon in more depth. Broadly speaking, the discussions follow three stages: first, the Gorbachev era (1985–1991); second, Yeltsin’s reign (1991–1999), marked by the coup of 1993, the presidential elections of 1996, and the economic crisis of 1998; and third, Putin’s first term as president (1999–2004). Rather than applying theoretical frameworks, the discussion of popular culture in the New Russia offers a survey of the developments of popular culture in the present while attempting to trace its history that may serve to explain some reasons for the shape popular culture has taken in the New Russia. Although Western theories of culture tended to perceive “popular” or “mass” culture as a manifestation of capitalism, demonstrating the grip of capitalist economies on culture and thus securing control over society, its taste, and consumer behavior (a position held by the so-called Frankfurt School), the development of Soviet and Russian culture does not lend itself to be positioned within such traditional Western cultural theories. The Soviet Union tended to “level” cultural production in an attempt to make it a vessel for ideology that would be widely accessible to the masses. Where Lenin had tried to raise the level of culturedness (kulturnost) of the masses, Stalin had emphasized the necessity to reach the masses by resorting to more conventional forms such as realism. The So-


viet Union had neither a proper cultural industry nor a consumer market, however. In ideological terms it ensured the accessibility of its cultural production, but in commercial terms it could not satisfy the demand for those cultural products that the people wanted. Even the “popular” spy thrillers of Yulian Semyonov and the historical novels of Valentin Pikul had such low print runs that they were hardly sufficient to cater for the readership. Thus, the centralized Soviet propaganda machine manipulated the taste of the masses to ensure that the levels would not drop down to a “mass” (speak “trash”) culture. During the Gorbachev era, culture was once again designated to play an ideological role, namely to ensure the trust of the people in the reforms. As Richard Stites has argued, “The new popular culture—much of it legalised ‘old’ culture—contained strong currents of iconoclasm, demythologizing, and open irreverence” (Stites 1999). Only the late perestroika years saw another, genuinely “trash” culture emerge, which glorified not the Soviet forbidden fruit but that of Western commercial culture that had previously been inaccessible. The Soviet system entertained two power centers: the party represented official ideology, whereas the dissident intelligentsia opposed the party line. Between those two poles there existed a “middle” class that was disinterested in ideology and politics and preoccupied instead with everyday life. This large group of people sustained the “second economy” (or “shadow economy”) that—on black markets and in the underground—provided goods and objects for consumption: foreign books, American jeans, and Western fashion. Throughout the Soviet era, the state and


the dissidents had shared a common ground in their rejection of commerce. Market forces were categorically rejected by the dissident intelligentsia, who perceived commercialization as a threat. This attitude was shared by the state, which also perceived the flourishing shadow economy, which satisfied consumer demands, as a threat to the state’s more and more dysfunctional economy. When commercial forces, now supported by the state, took grip of the economy in 1991, the state no longer needed the intelligentsia to preach spirituality over materialism. Once consumerism invaded Soviet society, the intelligentsia lost its role as opponent to the official view and eventually also as a key player in the balance of power. Its opposition (or pseudo-opposition) was no longer needed. Therefore the intelligentsia has been marginalized in the New Russia, which is well echoed in the poor performance of the parties that it supports (SPS [Union of Right Forces] and Yabloko). When the Soviet system collapsed in 1991, a shift from the ideological to the commercial culture took place. Globalization fully hit the New Russia and exposed it to all the trash and commercial culture that people had known only through negative propaganda. As Robert Edelman aptly commented in his article on sports in the New Russia, “It turns out that post-Soviet popular culture is less distinctive than Soviet popular culture was” (Edelman 1999). Culture (at least official, highbrow culture) had always been focused on the text, associating the writer with a prophet who provides moral guidance and reveals the absolute truth in his text. Now, visual culture gained ground, reflected in changes of urban planning and in the appearance of advertising posters in the cityscape.


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Whereas previously the leveling of culture had taken place within the Soviet Union, the new consumer culture leveled Russian culture with Western culture. The Soviet Union had upheld a concept of “socialism in one country” and set standards within that culture, excluding—at least officially—any influence of Western cultures. After the fall of the iron curtain, Russia was flooded with Western consumer products and lifestyle. The country swung toward an extreme form of capitalism, turning almost any manifestation of culture into a commercial enterprise. Therefore many institutions, such as the Bolshoi and Mariinsky Theaters, the Hermitage Museum, and the Tretiakov Gallery, took a long while to recover and to convince the state of the need for subsidies, as well as securing grants from both Russian and international organizations and businesses. Therefore, the post-Soviet phenomenon of postmodernism (with its manifestations of sots-art and conceptualism) may be seen through Western eyes as high art, whereas in fact the attempt to domesticate and trivialize Soviet culture and ideology (especially of the Stalin era) brings the apparently highbrow Soviet culture closer to the masses by parodying it, thus turning it into a commercially desirable product. Examples of such transgressions from high to low culture are the “postmodernist” bestsellers of Viktor Pelevin, the satirical glosses in the lyrics of the rock band Leningrad, or the New Russian versions of the cherished Russian lacquer boxes portraying tennis courts and Mercedes cars. The divide between high and low, popular and art-house, intellectual and consumer, is often blurred in the New Russia. Thus, for example, haute couture or glossy

journals appeal to many, although they are affordable only for a few. The attraction for the consumer lies in the novelty and accessibility of these products, not in their affordability: they are signs, but not goods for mass consumption. Russian cinema and theater try to attract audiences with star actors appearing in commercial projects, but many people cannot afford the tickets for such commercial enterprises and therefore prefer the “old,” State-subsidized theaters that are more affordable. In other words, the commercialization of Russian culture is shaping two groups of consumers: those who can afford the products allegedly made to cater for the masses; and those who cannot afford them and therefore stick with the old, verified, and trusted Soviet forms of entertainment and consumption, now available cheaply and readily. An exception is television, where trash culture, be it American serials or homegrown crime thrillers, captures mass audiences, rich and poor, as well as the book market, which has made most books available in paperback editions that are quite affordable for the majority of people.

References Edelman, Robert. 1999. “There Are No Rules on Planet Russia: Post-Soviet Spectator Sport.” In Consuming Russia. Popular Culture, Sex and Society since Gorbachev, ed. Adele Barker, 219. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Macdonald, Dwight. 1998. “A Theory of Mass Culture.” In Cultural Theory and Popular Culture, 2nd ed., ed. John Storey, 23–24. London: Prentice Hall. Stites, Richard. 1992. Russian Popular Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 178.

1 The Media

The Broadcasting Media Television The Russian media have made headlines in recent years because of the involvement of the oligarchs, Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky, in politics. Then their exiles and arrests were a news item: Berezovsky sought political asylum in the United Kingdom, and Gusinsky, an Israeli citizen, took up residence in Spain but was repeatedly arrested and threatened with extradition. Then the headlines were preoccupied with the NTV (Nezavisimoe televidenie, Independent Television) takeover through GazProm and the dismissal of Yevgeni Kiselyov. Finally, the feature film The Tycoon (Oligarkh, 2002), by Pavel Lungin, based on Yuli Dubov’s novel The Great Solder (Bol’shaia paika, 2001), made the international film festival circuit. The international interest in Russia’s media management has reached almost the same level as that in the media empire of Silvio Berlusconi, Rupert Murdoch, or Ludwig Kirch. Businessman Boris Berezovsky during the This chapter looks at the rapid tenth anniversary of the newspaper development from state control Kommersant, the flagship of his publishing to an extremely commercial empire. (Photo by Dmitry Azarov/ Kommersant) media market within a decade.


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Soviet Television: From Its Origins to Perestroika If, in the 1920s, Lenin had hailed cinema as the “most important of all arts,” this was because it could reach a large number of people at once. The medium also overcame the problem of illiteracy, which still dogged the new socialist empire in those days. For the modern era, the medium that can reach out to millions simultaneously and span its network across the eleven time zones of the Soviet territory is television. Television is more than that, however: it is a powerful tool for the manipulation of public opinion. In the Soviet era the primary aim of television was the education of the people and their socialization. Television was supposed to act as a model for imitation: hence no crime, violence, or sex was shown on Soviet television. The news served not to inform people but to reassure them that everything was on the right track: therefore news about murders, disasters, and accidents would be missing from the standard repertoire or mentioned in passing with a minimum of information. Political news prevailed, and this tended to be of an authentic and documentary nature: speeches were transmitted in full or reprinted verbatim in the print media. As the Soviet socialist society was based on equality, there were no stars or celebrities. Naturally, people cherished “their” heroes and admired “their” stars, but these images were neither created by nor promoted in the media. Thus, the hugely popular bard Vladimir Vysotsky would never appear on television shows, whereas the officially supported stars of the Soviet estrada, such as Arkadi Raikin, Alla Pugacheva, and Iosif Kobzon, had conquered the new medium in the 1970s with a number of musical shows and programs. Similarly, game shows re-

frained from offering prizes to individual competitors; instead there were shows that helped develop job-related skills. Horoscopes and clairvoyance were completely absent from Soviet television (and the print media as well), because the country collectively believed in a bright future, a communist future, and there was no need to predict that. In the USSR, television spread widely, as it was one means of communication whereby the political center (Moscow) could reach the entire country effectively and immediately. If, in the infant days of television, there were 400 television sets (1940), this figure grew rapidly to 10,000 in 1950, and five million by 1960. At this point the television era had just started: the five million owners of sets in 1960 represented only 5 percent of the population; by 1986 almost the entire population (93 percent) had access to television. The television tower in Ostankino, 533 meters high and 65 meters in diameter, marked the new television era. Its adjacent television center was expanded to accommodate more offices in 1970. Television coverage expanded also: television could reach 86 percent of the country’s population in 1980 and almost 99 percent in 1996, reflecting the growing realization of television’s power and the state’s concern with making this medium as widely available as possible. Having said that, the state also wished to remain in control: in 1996 there were still 30 percent of households that could receive only the two national channels (First Channel and Second Channel). From the mid-1990s onward, cable and satellite television became available and more and more affordable. The USSR had two nationwide channels: the First Channel, established in 1960, and the Second Channel, which opened in 1982


to transmit largely second-rate material left over from the First Channel. Apart from that there were a number of regional and local stations. Nevertheless, 80 percent of the Soviet population watched the evening news program at 9 PM, Vremia (Time). Several other news programs were also very popular, such as Segodnia v mire (Today in the World), an analytical program offering an international panorama. In Moscow a third channel started local transmission in 1965, focusing on education; in 1967 the fourth evening channel began to cover sports and local events; and the fifth was the Leningrad channel. Despite the range of channels, the news programs all originated from the same news agencies: TASS (Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union) for national news (since 1992, ITAR-TASS, Information Telegraph Agency of Russia) and APN (Agence Press Novosti, now RIA Novosti/RIA Vesti, Russian International Agency Novosti) for international news and longer features. Both agencies were controlled by the state; the first independent news agency, Interfax, was formed in 1989. Soviet television showed 29 percent films, 20 percent news, 9 percent history, 12 percent economy, 15 percent culture, 4 percent sports, 8 percent children’s programs, and 3 percent science and travel. These figures reflect the relative absence of entertainment in the viewers’ diet. When Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985, he realized the importance of the media. He was himself very keen to be portrayed on television; unlike his successor Boris Yeltsin, Gorbachev felt at ease in front of the camera and made ample use of his telegenic appearance. Gorbachev began his reform course with public opinion: he wanted the people to express their needs, their wishes, their problems; he en-


couraged criticism, which he perceived as a tool for eradicating the corruption and mismanagement inherent in the Soviet bureaucracy. Since ideology and propaganda were key instruments in this fight for an open and outspoken public opinion, Gorbachev began his reform by placing the reformers Alexander Yakovlev and Yegor Ligachev into key positions in the Communist Party’s think tank, the Central Committee. Yakovlev, who advocated the power of television, was put in charge of propaganda (and thereby mass media), and Ligachev took charge of ideology. By 1988 Yakovlev and Ligachev would adopt different viewpoints on the issue of how critical the media ought to be. In this rift, Ligachev professed a more conservative view, wanting to limit the breadth of the debate. Gorbachev himself brought a number of innovations to television: he encouraged live broadcasts; he called for openness (glasnost) in the treatment of news; he stressed the importance of timeliness (operativnost), of breaking the news as and when it happens; and he advocated pluralism of opinions, shattering the Soviet practice of offering only one line: the Communist Party’s line. One striking example of innovative television was the creation of a telemost, a space bridge, which was used frequently during the late 1980s and enjoyed tremendous popularity. The first space bridge took place in February 1986 between studios in Leningrad and Seattle; it was followed in 1986 by a bridge between Moscow and Kabul, paying tribute to the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. The direct link to a studio abroad created a window on the West formally; the content of programs would be adopted from the West only too soon. Gorbachev’s emphasis on television and


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the leader’s frequent appearance on the blue screen provoked not only favorable comments from his compatriots. The coverage of Raisa Gorbacheva, for example, was in harmony with Western style, but it did not go down well with audiences at home: people were queuing for food while the first lady was representing the USSR abroad. Notwithstanding the innovations Gorbachev’s leadership brought to the variety of programs and the methods of presenting the news, central television was still obliged to cover all appearances of members of the Politburo and the Central Committee, to read all their names in full in every news item, and to transmit the leadership’s—often long—speeches. Gorbachev encouraged criticism, yet this criticism seemed never ending. Furthermore, there were no quick solutions that Gorbachev could offer. Ultimately, he used television to destroy the old order, without encouraging the medium to engage actively in building public opinion. The public, which once suffered from “disinformation,” was now being overfed with information, unable to comprehend fully the sophisticated language, the new style of reporting, the struggle that went on behind the screens for real power. This use of the media for political aims rather than as a stronghold of standards and values, combined with the transition from state-finance to independent television, made television wide open for corruption. The new generation of managers and reporters who arrived on the screens during Yeltsin’s presidency offered different views, operated with changed ethics, and—to varying degrees—vied for power. Maximum Exposure: News on Television Soviet television programming had

contained some entertainment; however, the game show had the aim to instill the desire for self-improvement into the candidates, urging them to compete in skills. The television serial was an immensely popular genre, with the spy and detective thriller at the top of the league table during the Soviet years. The serial TASS Is Authorised to Report (TASS upolnomochen soobshchit’, 1984) and Seventeen Moments of Spring (17 mgnovenii vesny, 1973), both written by the best-selling writer Yulian Semyonov, were watched by millions and have become part of urban folklore with anecdotes about Stirlitz, the Soviet spy in Hitler’s administration. The Eternal Call (Vechnyi zov), a best-selling novel by Anatoli Ivanov that traces the fate of several Siberian families during the Soviet era, was also serialized. Stanislav Govorukhin’s The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed (Mesto vstrechi izmenit’ nel’zia, 1979), starring the bard and actor Vladimir Vysotsky, has become a classic. With the advent of Gorbachev’s reforms, however, the main interest of people, educated or not, lay with politics and history. For the first time in years they were allowed access to the previously blank pages of Soviet history: they could read previously censored works of literature, watch films that had been shelved, discover hitherto hidden historical facts in documentaries and historical novels. They were able to hear things about their country that they were aware of but that had never been pronounced in the open. The interest of viewers was first and foremost in the analytical programs about the past and in innovative, live (rather than prerecorded) coverage of current affairs. Therefore, most important and most popular were the news programs. The


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