VIA’s were the Soviet answer to the negative influence of the Western rock- and pop-music which was in various levels of official bans.
This internal Komsomol document, widely circulated after the death of the USSR, lists famous Western bands with the reasons why they were inappropriate for the delicate ears of the Soviet youth.
Sex Pistols – violence and punk; Judas Priest – anti-communism and racism; Village People – violence; Julio Iglesias – neo-fascism; Black Sabbath – violence, religious obscurantism; Van Halen – anti-soviet propaganda; Tina Turner – sex; and so on. The Soviet censors were always on guard protecting the ideological well-being of the citizens which was constantly assaulted by the West.
In the late 1960’s and early 70’s a new breed of musicians filled the concert stages of the Soviet Union. They were the opposite of the rock-n-roll bands booming at the same time in the West – their neat haircuts, dignified demeanor, uniform-looking costumes were supposed to underline the differences between the intelligent, cultured and inspired communist youth and sex-crazy, rotten, drunk and drugged westerners with the grim future.
VIA’s consisted mainly of professional musicians and performed songs written by professional hit-songwriters with every word of the lyrics carefully weighed by the censors. The acceptable subjects were love, love for the Motherland, work, army, peace on earth, and folk themes. Unacceptable subjects were everything else. Everything else was covered by the underground music scene which officially did not exist and was never seen on TV or recorded. Many songs immediately became beloved hits, played at every disco or just by anyone with a guitar and a mouth. Lyrics were easy to remember and the tunes were catchy, and, most importantly, there wasn’t much to choose from. Many people still argue that the pop-music of that time is better than anything being produced today. This is only partially true, there were probably hundreds and thousands of songs performed and only relative few are still remembered and cherished. There were plenty of worthless, idiotic songs with lyrics written to please the government bureaucrats and censors. It wasn’t that much different than anywhere else.
Of course to the people who grew up with this music it’s nostalgic more than anything else; a reminder of the time that seemed so innocent and simple. It wasn’t so, but it’s nice to listen to an old song and reminisce.
If you actually listened to the song at the beginning of this post, below are the real clips from the 1970’s. You will recognize the look, the costumes and the stillness on stage.
Pesnyary – Vologda: