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The Phoenix that Could Not Rise: Politics and Rock Culture in Romania, 1960–1989

In: East Central Europe
Author:
Caius Dobrescu
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Abstract

The article addresses the emergence and development of the rock scene under the very specifi c circumstances of Romanian communism. While pointing to the extension and complexity of this social-musical phenomenon, it tries to explain the paradox that the rock scene could coexist with what is currently perceived as one of the most repressive and unreformed social systems in communist Eastern Europe. The analytical part of the paper is centered around two case studies: 1) the artistic and intellectual evolution of the rock band Phoenix, from its 1962 beginnings to the 1977 spectacular escape to the West of most of its lineup, 2) and the strange combination of nationalist-Stalinist mobilizationism and flower power Woodstock-like poetry of the cultural activist Adrian Păunescu and his Flacăra Cénacle of the Revolutionary Youth, from the mid-1970s to the last part of the 1980s. Alluding to the name of the cult act Phoenix, the title of the paper suggests that, once dissipated under the impact of repressive and manipulative cultural policies, the overwhelming creative energies manifested in the Romanian youth culture of the second half of the 1960s were almost completely lost to the cause of a gradual, peaceful opening of the Romanian society.

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