Rock and Roll in the Rocket City: The West, Identity, and Ideology in Soviet Dniepropetrovsk, 1960-1985

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Rock and Roll in the Rocket City: The West, Identity, and Ideology in Soviet Dniepropetrovsk, 1960-1985
By Sergei I. Zhuk
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010
464 pp. $65.00
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It may come as a surprise, but in Leonid Brezhnev's day, the youth of Dniepropetrovsk, Ukraine, a closed missile-manufacturing city far from the cosmopolitan circles of Moscow and St. Petersburg, knew all about Deep Purple's lead vocalist, Ian Gillan, and, for that matter, the stars of nearly every other American and British rock band. Try as they might -- and try they did -- the thought police made little progress in channeling teenage interest away from such, as one ex-KGB official put it, "ideological anti-Soviet pollution." Zhuk, who grew up in Ukraine as part of the Beatles generation, details his cohort's intricate knowledge of the Western rock scene, smuggled Western movies, and, among schoolchildren, Western adventure classics. Officialdom had a reason to care. Even if the mania over Western youth culture was not a revolt against political realities, it did represent an effort to avoid them by creating a sphere of meaning free of outside authority. Zhuk's deft exploration of this cultural scene has the texture of real life in the last decades of Soviet communism, and because members of the generation he writes of are now leaders of a new Ukraine and a new Russia, it has a distinct contemporary relevance.