Notes from Underground

Rock Music Counterculture in Russia

By Thomas Cushman

Subjects: Social And Cultural History, Social Change, Sociology, Social Movements, Russian Studies
Series: SUNY series in the Sociology of Culture
Paperback : 9780791425442, 427 pages, July 1995
Hardcover : 9780791425435, 427 pages, July 1995

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Table of contents



1. A Recovery of the Senses: Toward a Critical-Interpretive Sociology of Russian Culture

2. Stories from Underground: The Origins of St.Petersburg Rock Music Counterculture

3. Musical Identity and Authenticity: The Local Meanings of Rock Music in St. Petersburg

4. At Play in the Fields of the Soviets: Individual and Collective Identity in the St. Petersburg Rock Music Community

5. Notes from Underground: Glasnost, Perestroika, and the St. Petersburg Rock Music Community

6. The Tusovka Is Over: The Acceleration of Capitalism and the St. Petersburg Rock Music Counterculture

7. Conclusion: Capitalism, Cultural Freedom, and Democracy in Post-Soviet Russia

Appendix 1. Researching Russian Counterculture: Some Reflections on Method

Appendix 2. The Structure and the Intonation of Rock Songs and Songs by VIAs





Describes the Russian rock music counterculture and how it is changing in response to Russia's transition from a socialist to a capitalist society. It explores the lived experiences, the thoughts and feelings of the rock musicians as they meet the challenges of change.


Notes From Underground offers the first Western sociological study of rock music and counterculture in Russian society. Based on participant observation, in-depth interviews, and life-history analysis, the author provides a detailed ethnographic examination of the origins and local meanings of rock music and the countercultural way of life of rock musicians in St. Petersburg during the socialist period of Russian history. Rock music served as the basis for alternative forms of individual and collective identity which stood as beacons of difference and resistance in the bleak cultural environment of socialist industrial society. Cushman explores the experiences of members of the St. Petersburg musical community after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in order to shed light on the following questions: What happens to oppositional "underground" culture when it "comes up from the underground?" What is the fate of Russian rock music and those who make it under new conditions of the rapid capitalist rationalization of post-Soviet Russian society?

The book traces the experiences of musicians in new capitalist culture markets, both in Russia and in Western societies to illustrate the more general process of "commercialization of dissent" which is taking place in post-communist societies. Russia's entrance into the path of Western capitalist modernity is viewed not so much as a path to freedom and cultural autonomy, but as the intersection of two trajectories of modernity that has given rise to new and unique cultural dilemmas. It concludes with an examination of important theoretical issues about the problematic relationship between capitalism, cultural freedom, and democracy in contemporary Russian society.

Thomas Cushman is Associate Professor of Sociology at Wellesley College and a Fellow at the Harvard Russian Research Center.


"Not only is this book's argument brilliant, but it is also extremely well written. It is a delight to read. Outstanding." — Stjepan Mestrovic, Texas A&M University