Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > "Russia's Greatest Love Machine": Disco, Exoticism, Subversion

In 1978, the European disco group Boney M made history when they performed a series of ten concerts in Moscow as the guests of the Soviet government, the first Western popular music group to receive such an invitation. Yet despite breaking through the Iron Curtain, Boney M could not avoid the censorship of the Communist government. One of their biggest hits in Russia at that time, “Rasputin,” —a humorous portrait of the infamous monk who was an aide to the Tsar in the early twentieth century— circulated throughout Russia in bootleg copies. Because Boney M utilized musical signifiers of “Russianness” along with tongue-in-cheek lyrics about a Russian historical figure, the Soviet government deemed the song unacceptable for performance or release. Close musical analysis coupled with a critical examination of the Russian reception of “Rasputin” reveals a confluence of musical signification, exoticism, and the relationship of music and politics.