Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


The impact of the Soviet cultural politics on folk music:
Balalaika ”Moscow 80” and players

Kaori Yunoki-Oie

(The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, School of Cultural and Social Studies,
Department of Regional Studies

Key words;

European Russia, balalaika, Soviet cultural politics, folk music, reproduction of culture

Balalaika, a three-stringed instrument with a triangle body, is well known as a Russian musical instrument. In Russia there are three styles of the Balalaika music, such as “folk” (non-staged), “national” (staged as an art music and promoted by the Soviet cultural politics) and “mass” (staged not as an art music) music, of which the “national” is the most famous because of the enthusiastic cultural propaganda of the Soviet Union. The purpose of this work is to clarify the relationship between the Soviet cultural politics and the “folk” music during the 1920s-30s, and the present situation of the folk music from a sample of Nerekhta region in Kostroma province.

In Nerekhta, where the politics did not so deeply influenced on the folk music, the balalaika performing culture has twice flourished by the mass supply of the instruments during the Soviet regime: at first, in the 1920s-30s and the second, in the 1980s. In the former period, factory made instruments began to be distributed to the people. Those days, the players, to whom the author gave interviews during her fieldwork, were still young. In the latter period, factory made instruments were once more distributed to the players. The “Moscow 80”, produced as a souvenir of Moscow Olympic, was the best present to the old players as a 50-yaer-old celebration by their relatives. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, they are reproducing the music culture of folk balalaika is again revitalized. The people are not only remembering the old tunes (naigrysh) and words (chastushka), but also making new words for their well-known favorite tunes.

In this paper, the author reached the conclusion that, in the case of the Nerekhta region, the item (factory made instruments) invented by the Soviet politics to destroy the traditional peasant culture functioned to promote the “folk” style balalaika music, contrary to the expectation of the Soviet government, and even played an important role for its revival today.