Youth, Consumption, and State-Sponsored Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1945-1970
University of Pittsburgh Press 2016
New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in PoliticsNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Popular CultureNew Books in Russian and Eurasian StudiesNew Books Network March 14, 2017 Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed
Socialist Fun: Youth, Consumption, and State-Sponsored Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1945-1970 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016) offers a compelling investigation of Soviet leisure culture. Gleb Tsipursky undertakes an unexpected approach to illuminate some aspects of the USSR history, which have been previously disregarded. Describing leisure activities that were popular in the Soviet Union, Tsipursky contributes to the discussion concerning the shaping of Soviet mentality and consciousness.
Briefly describing traditions that the Soviet Union was referring to when devising cultural programs, Socialist Fun focuses on the post-War period and offers a detailed analysis of leisure time activities during the Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras. Considering the developments of cultural programs devised and maintained by Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev, Tsipursky outlines his theory regarding the development of the Soviet society. Sponsored by the state, the cultural sphere in the USSR appears a part of gardening policies: through a variety of entertainment activities, the state was implementing strategies to shape and direct Soviet peoples thinking. In this regard, leisure culture was one of the areas that invited discreet methods of the states control. Tsipursky also puts his discussion of Soviet culture into broader historical, sociological, and ideological contexts. The Soviet Union is viewed as an alternative modernity project. As Tsipursky illustrates, this project was gradually evolving, receiving the utmost support during the Khrushchev era. The detailed analysis of cultural programs that Tsipursky provides also expands the understanding of the concept of New Soviet Men and Women. As Socialist Fun demonstrates, this concept was subject to modifications: over the decades, emphases on isolationist and militant aspects, supported by Stalin, shifted to more open and cosmopolitan nuances, maintained by Khrushchev.
Socialist Fun is based on a substantial analysis of archival materials; it also includes a vast amount of interviews that offer a glimpse into the life of Soviet people. The research offers a captivating narrative of how Soviet people organized their leisure time. Socialist Fun includes extensive information on club activities, dancing, music, theatre, literature, etc. In addition, a comprehensive survey highlights the history of jazz in the Soviet Union. This research is also supplemented with exclusive photos and stories shared by people who were creating and engaging in socialist fun.
Gleb Tsipursky is assistant professor of history at The Ohio State University.