Soviet Punk and the Formation of Modern Ukrainian Identity - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities
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Soviet Punk and the Formation of Modern Ukrainian Identity

Event will take place Thursday, Jan. 19 at 7pm. Event to be held at the Zarrow Center for Arts & Education.

To watch online, register here.

The Oklahoma Center for the Humanities is thrilled to welcome Maria Sonevytsky to discuss her upcoming book Vopli Vidopliassova’s Tantsi. 

In the late 1980s, the Soviet Ukrainian punk subculture seeded an accidental politics that allowed for new and idiosyncratic ways to identify as Ukrainian. In this talk, the anthropologist and musician Maria Sonevytsky will share her research on a curious cassette album that circulated in the last years of the USSR on the streets of Kyiv: Tantsi (Dances), by the punk quartet Vopli Vidopliassova (known by fans as VV). Using Tantsi as the center of her analysis, Sonevytsky will discuss the band’s irreverent hit songs, their uses of irony to battle the Soviet state’s hypocrisy (and to circumvent the censors), the punk scene’s awakening to new forms of belonging to the project of Ukraine, and the stakes of all of this in the context of the ongoing Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. 

This is the first of two events on Ukrainian music and identity that the Center is hosting. Be sure to join Sonevytsky, musician and author Franz Nicolay, and Boris Dralyuk for a musical salon on Friday, January 20th.


Maria Sonevytsky is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Music at Bard College. Her first book, Wild Music: Sound and Sovereignty in Ukraine, was awarded the Lewis Lockwood First Book Prize from the American Musicological Society in 2020. Her second book, Vopli Vidopliassova’s Tantsi, will be published in Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Europe series in the spring of 2023 and paired with the first official release of the album on the California-based label Org Music. She is currently drafting her third book project, provisionally titled Singing for Lenin in Soviet Ukraine: Children, Music, and the Communist Future, for which she was awarded a 2023 NEH Fellowship. Earlier work includes a number of scholarly articles, and the multimedia Chornobyl Songs Project, conceived in collaboration with the Kyiv-based ethnomusicologist Yevhen Yefremov, the Yara Arts Group, and the Center for Traditional Music and Dance. It was released as an album on Smithsonian Folkways in 2015. In 2008, she and Alison Cartwright Ketz collaborated on a photo and sound installation on Crimean Tatar repatriates, titled No Other Home, which was exhibited at museums in New York, Ukraine, and Romania, and published in article-form on Triple CanopyAs a musician, she has performed most extensively with her Ukrainian polyphony trio Zozulka, her novelty band The Debutante Hour, and as back-up for her husband Franz Nicolay’s solo act. You can read and listen more at