Examining the history of jazz in the Soviet Union between 1948 and 1953, this essay sheds light on the role of popular music in the cultural competition of the early Cold War. While the Soviet authorities pursued a tolerant policy toward jazz during World War II because of its wartime alliance with the United States, the outbreak of the Cold War in the late 1940s led to a decisive turn against this music. The Communist Party condemned jazz as the music of the “foreign bourgeoisie,” instead calling for patriotic Soviet music. Building on previous studies of the complex fate of western music in the USSR during the postwar decades, this article highlights a previously unexamined youth counterculture of jazz enthusiasts, exploring the impact of anti-jazz initiatives on grassroots cultural institutions, on the everyday cultural practices of young people, and on the Cold War’s cultural front in the USSR. It relies on sources from central and regional archives, official publications, and memoirs, alongside oral interviews with jazz musicians and cultural officials.
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