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Italian Pop Music in Russia

During last year's expedition to Kamchatka I was taken aback when locals mentioned pop-Italian singers from the 80s. Not having grown up in my passport country means I lack knowledge of all this pop-culture. So whenever in the Commander Islands they would be so happy to mention these singers and asked me to tell them what their songs were about or to sing along it always ends up with me awkwardly smiling and blushing.

The reason Russians, especially if above 40, like Italian pop music is that in 1983 the Sanremo Italian Song Festival aired on channel 1 of Soviet State TV. The festival was the only western TV show allowed and Italian songs were the only non-censured western music. For soviets, it was a window on Western Europe and something different. It became so popular that in 1987 Sanremo Festival was shown purposefully on Holy Easter night to prevent people from going to Mass.

Why the popular music festival and italian music was allowed in the USSR was probably due to the strong communist party presence in Italy and to a cultural agreement between the two countries dating back to 1960.

During this year expedition we spent most of the time away from civilization and people. However, on one occasion we got invited to dinner by a family from Chelyabinsk spending their summer in their hut in Baikal. They were also great fans of Italian pop music. and played it all evening while serving us freshly picked mushrooms and juicy eggplants. Definitely a crash pop-culture course for me!


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