Music from Beyond the Curtain: Soviet Recordings and Cold War Cultural Relations, 1950s – 70s

Kondrashina, Evgeniya. 2020. Music from Beyond the Curtain: Soviet Recordings and Cold War Cultural Relations, 1950s – 70s. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This study investigates the role of Soviet classical music recordings in Western–Soviet relationships during the Cold War, with a focus on the UK. Whereas studies of cultural relations have commonly concentrated on government interactions, I draw attention to private actors that shifted exchange between the USSR and the West from the political to the commercial sphere.

The research concerns, firstly, the motivations and interactions of state, corporate and individual agents involved in bringing Soviet-made recordings to the West and recording Soviet musicians abroad in the 1950s–70s, and, secondly, the analysis of these recordings as cultural artefacts: the choice of repertoire, iconography and critical reviews. I revise the established notion that the Détente period was characterised by stagnation in cultural relations between the USSR and the West, arguing instead that this was a golden era for Soviet classical music recordings on the international stage, when a diverse repertoire was recorded, licensed, manufactured and distributed.
This project demystifies the common view of the USSR as an ideology-driven state by demonstrating how Soviet motivation changed with time, becoming highly commercial by the 1970s. I propose that the USSR became a key player in the global classical music record business through three channels: recording projects with Soviet performers in the West, licensing and exports. Its full integration, however, would be hindered by internal idiosyncrasies of the socialist system that were at odds with the capitalist approach.

I show further that Western partners helped in this process of integration. When Western record companies selected imagery and sleeve notes for Soviet recordings, these often aligned with broader marketing strategies or softened any sense of hostility towards culture from beyond the Iron Curtain. In this way, classical recordings played a crucial role in the generation of perceptions of Soviet music and musicians abroad.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Cultural diplomacy, cultural relations, USSR, recordings, Cold War, classical music, Soviet music, Russian music

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



30 September 2020

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

08 Jun 2021 13:07

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:18


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