CSEES is sponsoring a talk at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio given by Anastasiia Gordiienko (PhD Candidate, Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures) on March 22, 2018 at 11:00am.
This talk examines the phenomenon of the Russian shanson (the underworld song, from the French chanson) in the context of contemporary Russian culture and politics. Over the last few centuries, underworld music has repeatedly and successfully adapted to changing socio-political situations. Consequently, the shanson musical genre has undergone a notable metamorphosis, evolving from a subcultural form that mocks the dominant powers to a “normalized” genre that is being utilized effectively by the Russian government.
Granted, such transformations are not unusual in a subculture’s lifecycle. But in this case, it is striking that the shanson has retained its bond with the criminal world and underworld culture. In other words, a paradox has emerged: besides becoming a commercially successful phenomenon, this music is currently acknowledged, appreciated, and deployed by the Russian government even as it remains tied to criminal culture.
Taking the period immediately after the demise of the Soviet Union as my starting point, I analyze the changes that the shanson underwent when faced with the new post-Soviet economic reality. Next, I expand on its complex and unusual symbiotic relationship with Putin’s regime and comment on its paradoxical place within Russian culture and politics today.