Posted tagged ‘USSR’

Self-Expression meets Repression: Pussy Riot’s plight is only one example of mistreatment by authorities

2012/09/15

In August, the sentence handed down to members of the feminist collective Pussy Riot was a grotesque overreaction to political self-expression.  A two-year prison term for “hooliganism” reflects how seriously Russia’s political and religious authorities treat acts of perceived subversion and dissent.

Freedom of speech has never been valued as highly in Russia as it is in the West. The members of Pussy Riot, however, participate in the punk community, a subculture in which speaking out is a basic tenet. They are following a rich lineage of personal expression and protest.

Unfortunately, there is also a history of punishment.

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The History of Punk, Class #7

2012/06/19

The Edmonton Free School
Saturday 23 June 1:30PM
Location: Humanities 1-14, The University of Alberta
All-Ages, All-Welcome

“Not All Quiet on the Western Front: Punk in Eastern Europe during the Cold War”

During the Cold War, Western music had subversive implications for Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. In this seminar, we will examine what happened when the punk got through the Iron Curtain. Specifically, we will look at Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and the USSR. We will also look at what happened when the Eastern Bloc variants of punk traveled to the West.

Just like last week, we’ll start with a short lecture, and then transition into our intellectual picnic format – so bring food to share if you can!

Readings:
Tomáš Pospíšil, “Making Music as a Political Act: or how the Velvet Underground Influenced the Velvet Revolution”
“Hungary Scene Report” Maximum Rocknroll #39
“Hungary Scene Report” Part II
Czech Scene Report – Maximum Rocknroll #42 November 1986
“Radio Free Lithuania” Flagpole Magazine
Dropping the Iron Curtain
“Personal Expression vs. the Powerful’s Repression”

Playlist:
The story of The Plastic People of the Universe
Plastic People of the Universe – ‘Podivuhodný Mandarin”
Plastic People of the Universe – “Slavná nemesis”
DOA – “General Strike”
Beats of Freedom Trailer
Dezerter – “Szara Rzeczywistość”
Bix – Saves Neapgausi


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History doesn’t have the best memory

2011/05/28

The Second World War: While often remembered as “the Good War” in Western historical memory, it sure had a lot of not so good things happen in it. Contentious debate has arisen over the memory of the war (what we learn in school, and what we see in Steven Spielberg productions) versus what actually happened. For example:

From the top: An invading Nazi army? Nope, that’s the Red one – heading into Poland in 1939 to help Hitler carve up the country. Stalin was, of course, an ally of Nazi Germany until the Soviet Union was invaded in June of 1941. The next one: A starved civilian in German or Japanese occupied territory? Nope, that’s an image from the famine in British India in 1943. And the next: That’s the German city of Hamburg after the Allies bombed it to bits. The bottom picture is from Berlin in 1945, after Germany’s surrender.

Is World War II Still ‘the Good War’?
By ADAM KIRSCH
May 27, 2011, The New York Times

An American Composer in Prague

2011/05/26

In 1970, a young American composer named Martin Bresnick traveled to Prague to present a short film. He had written its score. As a member of the Students for a Democratic Society and a musician, Bresnick was no stranger to the relationship between politics and music, especially directed towards protest of the Vietnam War. Behind the Iron Curtain, he experienced this relationship again – in a city that had shorty before suffered a harsh reprisal for attempts at liberalization.

“Prague 1970: Music in Spring”
By MARTIN BRESNICK
May 25, 2011 The New York Times

GERARD LEROUX/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The above picture is from 1969, and highlights a tragic, and far too common form of protest:  “people of what was then Czechoslovakia paid tribute to Jan Palach, a student who had set himself on fire to protest Soviet occupation.” (thanks nytimes)

Dropping the Iron Curtain

2010/12/29

Nowadays, American bands don’t just influence American bands. American bands also influence British bands, Canadian bands, Australian bands, heck, American bands influence at the very least bands all over the world, if not also in places that aren’t even planets, like Pluto. (sorry Pluto)

The same was the case during the Cold War. Despite the USSR’s official rejection of western culture, all things American were slipping through the Iron Curtain. Music was no stranger to this transmission into Eastern Europe and the USSR. Musicians picked up from acts like Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, and of course later punk bands like the Talking Heads. I know this to be true because I read about it in a fanzine called Flagpole Magazine, from Athens, Georgia.

BIX

In 1991, a band called BIX came across the Atlantic to perform across the United States. They were from Lithuania, a country that had just declared independence from the Soviet Union. Already veterans of playing throughout Europe, and at a short 1990 US tour including a stop at the New Music Seminar in NYC, BIX was back for their second tour of America.

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With a Rebel Yell

2010/12/15

Power of the people: The Velvet Revolution

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter that likes to write a lot.

He was in Eastern Europe when the Iron Curtain was crumbling.

And if you go to Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, tomorrow morning (Dec 16 2010) at 10:00AM you’ll see him and others promoting the importance of civil disobedience.

Here’s his article on the role rebellion held in ridding Eastern Europe of communist control, and why he thinks efforts of subversion are just as vital today: 

Every Act of Rebellion Helps Tear Down Our Corrupt System 

WikiLeaks in the 1970s

2010/12/12

Hear all about it: United States President Richard Nixon kept secret recordings of his conversations in the Oval Office. This is, of course, until the Watergate committee found out about them. Recently those tapes have been released by the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, and a new batch came out last week. They shed a lot of light onto Nixon’s personality and more candid opinions on American foreign policy, Vietnam  draft dodgers, and the circumstances of Jews in the Soviet Union.

Not to mention blacks, Italians, and the drinking prowess of the Irish.  
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