Trouble with the neighbours: jazz, geopolitics and Finland's totalitarian shadow

O'Dair, Marcus (2016) Trouble with the neighbours: jazz, geopolitics and Finland's totalitarian shadow. In: Jazz and Totalitarianism. Johnson, Bruce, ed. Transnational Studies in Jazz . Routledge, pp. 136-154. ISBN 9781138887824. [Book Section]

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Although Finnish jazz did not emerge under a totalitarian regime, in return for maintaining its national sovereignty, the country repeatedly deferred to its more powerful neighbour in matters of foreign policy, giving rise to the term ‘Finlandization’ or ‘good neighbourliness’. Is it possible to detect in Finnish jazz a kind of cultural ‘good neighbourliness’? It has been argued that until the collapse of the Soviet Union there was a tendency to give a more positive valency to culture coming from the east than from the west. Or, on the contrary, did the musicians attempt to oppose Soviet influence, forming their musical identity in reaction to Russia? My paper will explore the effects of Soviet totalitarianism on particular Finnish jazz musicians, and also touch on Finland’s sometimes uncomfortably close relationship with another totalitarian power, Nazi Germany. Finally, it will explore how more recent Finnish jazz musicians have been affected by the legacy of Soviet totalitarianism.

Finland has never been a totalitarian country. What, then, is a discussion of the country’s jazz scene doing in this book? The answer lies in the Finnish experience of the Second World War and its aftermath, and the impact this had on Finnish national identity and culture. To discuss diasporic regional jazz in relation to the United States is relatively common; I will focus instead on the Soviet Union, a power bloc more geographically and culturally proximate. I will ask whether, given its influence over neighbouring Finland, the Soviet Union may be said to have cast a ‘shadow’ over that nation’s jazz scene. I will also touch on Finland’s at one point uncomfortably close relationship with another totalitarian power: Nazi Germany. Although my focus will be the 1960s and 1970s, I will conclude by asking whether a totalitarian ‘shadow’ has continued to affect more recent Finnish jazz musicians. Of course, no single factor can be regarded as the 'explanation' for the history of Finnish jazz: a range of influences must be considered, including broader anti-authoritarian impulses and a growing interest in American culture. I will focus here, however, on the impact of the 'shadow' of the totalitarian soviet regime.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: © 2017- Routledge. Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business.
Hardback: 9781138887817.
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts
Item ID: 19803
Notes on copyright: Attached full text: This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Jazz and Totalitarianism on 12th August 2016, available online:
Depositing User: Dr Marcus O'Dair
Date Deposited: 23 May 2016 12:49
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 21:40

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