Hmmm … Beatles or Brezhnev? … Beatles or Brezhnev? … which seems more fun?
Apparently, Back in the USSR had a real impact back in the USSR.
At least, that’s the theory in the documentary How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin. It airs tonight across Canada on CBC News Network (formerly CBC Newsworld).
How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin, which is a BBC project, was directed by British documentary filmmaker Leslie Woodhead. If you’re a Beatles fan, you’ll be interested to know that Woodhead filmed the Beatles at the Cavern back in August 1962, producing lasting images that you probably have seen a million times.
Anyway, in How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin, Woodhead investigates the impact the Beatles and their music had on the former Soviet Union, from the 1960s through to the fall of the communist regime.
In interviews with many Russian Beatles fans, a picture is painted that suggests the Beatles, slowly but surely, helped to erode blind faith in the Soviet state. The Fab Four was a window to Western culture, whispering a promise that something exciting and worthwhile existed beyond the Iron Curtain.
In the early ’60s it actually was kind of cool to be a Soviet — relatively speaking — with the worldwide fame of first-man-in-space Yuri Gagarin and political leader Nikita Khrushchev’s entertaining rants against the West. But in 1964 Khrushchev was replaced by the „much more boring” Leonid Brezhnev and the first seeds of a Soviet generation gap were planted.
Beatles music was banned in the Soviet Union in the ’60s, so it was passed around as contraband. Bootleg discs were made from old X-rays. Of course, the danger and secrecy made Soviet youths even more thirsty for the sound.
Making a long story short, by the early 1980s the gulf between the so-called Soviet „Beatles generation” and Soviet leadership was too wide to be bridged. It is the opinion of some that despite the Cold War posturing between the West and the Soviets, what really doomed communism within the Soviet Union was that young adults raised on the Beatles just didn’t believe in the system any more.
As one Russian Beatles fan puts it, „After the Beatles, communism was like a fence with holes. We breathed through those holes.”