Russian Music

Timeline created by adelineking
In Music
  • 750


    This timeline serves to show the relationship between the political and cultural events in Russia and the music that was popular or created in that time period. Russia has experienced a wide variety of political systems and historical events, and this timeline will explore how those events have influenced attitudes and music, and it will explore outside influences as well.
  • 1050

    Vocal Folk Music

    In the 11th century, Russian folk music emerged as vocal music. There were no instruments yet, so they used their voices to sing folk songs and traditional music.
  • 1350

    Russian Folk Instruments

    Russian Folk Instruments
    Two of the first Russian folk instruments were the "gusli" (pictured) and the "godok", both of which were string instruments. Information:
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  • 1452

    Permanent Separation from the Papacy

    In 1452, efforts were made to unify the Russian Orthodox Church with the Papacy. However, Prince Vasily II rejected these ideas and forbade the church from reunifying. This established increased separation and further distinction for the Russian Orthodox Church, establishing it as its own entity.
  • 1550

    Instrumental Outlaw

    In the 16th century, the Russian Orthodox church outlawed the use of musical instruments. This meant that musicians and composers were limited to vocal music and there was a distinct lack of instrumental folk music in this time
  • Catherine the Great's Education Reforms

    Catherine the Great's Education Reforms
    Catherine the Great created widespread education reforms throughout Russia and provided free education to the public. These educated members of society were exposed to Western musical styles, including opera from Germany, Italy, and France.
  • Napoleon Tries (and fails) To Invade

    Napoleon Tries (and fails) To Invade
    Napoleon attempted to invade Russia in the year 1812 but he was unsuccessful.This event, in which Russia asserted its dominance in the region, marked the beginning of strong nationalistic feelings within Russia that would last for centuries. Image:
  • "Official Nationality"

    In 1833, Nicholas I implemented "Official Nationality", which officially unified Russians under the tsar. It gave the tsar total authority, which allowed Russians to have a leader to look to. It also emphasized the principle of nationalism, which led to a strong feeling of national pride shared by Russians, along with an adherence to the Orthodox church. This impacted art, music, and culture, as Russians were inspired to show support for the nation they were so connected to.
  • Publication of "Ruslan and Lyudmila"

    Publication of "Ruslan and Lyudmila"
    Mikhail Glinka published one of the most notable operas in Russian musical culture, "Ruslan and Lyudmila", in 1842. It was not immediately popular, but it greatly influenced the future of Russian music and set a model to follow. Glinka was also recognized as the founder of the Russian Nationalist School.
  • Great Reforms

    In 1861, the Emancipation Edict was passed by Alexander II. This freed the serfs and marked the beginning of a period of great societal reforms and progress led by Alexander II. Many of these reforms could be classified as "Westernization" because they seemed to match Western values, such as military and governmental reforms.
  • The Russian Five

    The Russian Five (also known as "The Five" or "The Mighty Handful") was a group of composers consisting of Cui, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsokov, Balakriev, and Borodin. These composers were champions of purely Russian music and rejected any Western influence, such as Italian or French opera that had previously been introduced. They were very much influenced by Glinka's style of composing, and they made an effort to preserve Russian nationalism through using purely Russian styles of music.
  • 1812 Overture Composed

    1812 Overture Composed
    In 1880, over fifty years after the historic battle, Tchaikovsky published a piece entitled "The 1812 Overture". This work commemorates the Russian victory over Napoleon's army and advances nationalistic feelings about Russia. The piece is very upbeat and it features cannonfire as well as loud dynamics to symbolize a large, unifying national pride in Russia and their military might over France. Image:
  • Assassination of Alexander II

    In 1881, Alexander II was assassinated. His successors made certain to re-centralize the government, which again led to another surge in nationalism as they restored authority to the tsar. They encouraged nationalism and discouraged any rebellion or revolt among the people, which led to a large amount of conformist ideas within Russia.
  • 1905 Revolution

    1905 Revolution
    Russia had large amounts of social unrest, especially from the peasant lower-class citizens. Conditions were poor since industrialization, and they were calling for new reforms. The revolution failed, and progress was not made, but it publicized the sentiments that people were feeling and brought light to suppression of revolutionary ideas. Image:
  • Establishment of the Soviet Union

    Following unrest and violence, the communist party gained power and eventually, a Marxist government was instilled. The focus shifted to industrial production and government control remained a large factor, especially in art and music as expectations were set of composers and creators.
  • Stalin's First 5-Year Plan

    When Stalin instituted his five-year plan for the Soviet Union, he set extreme limitations and regulations on composers. During the next five years, he would eventually place a total ban on foreign jazz or avant-garde music. Composers who didn't follow the rules were attacked by the press and the government and they were censored if they didn't match Soviet standards.
  • Shoshtakovich Symphony No. 5

    Shoshtakovitch's Fifth Symphony marked a shift in style and tone from his previous works. Before, he had an independent style that was less rigid, and he was heavily criticized by the government. With his fifth symphony, he wrote very methodically in the classical style, following Soviet guidelines. It was well-received, although it was not his usual style but rather his way of following government control.
  • Leningrad

    After a battle at Leningrad, Shoshtakovich wrote his Symphony 7, which has been interpreted as his depiction of the Soviet Union in the war. He depicted the Russians as a strong force resisting the Nazi invasion, and it could be seen as Soviet propaganda, even if it wasn't his intention.
  • Cold War Beginning

    Around 1945, after WWII, the Soviet Union entered a Cold War with the US, in which tensions were extremely high as both countries exercised military strength, flouted nuclear power, and encouraged national pride. While nuclear war never erupted, they influenced countries in places like Africa. The Cold War was mostly centered around the issue of communism, and the Soviet Union was very proud of their government and political system.
  • Harsh Criticism of Composers

    At a conference in 1948, Shoshtakovich, along with several other composers, received harsh criticism for their music. This is reflective of the culture in Soviet Russia, especially during the Cold War, because restrictions were tightened and composers had less creative freedom. Shoshtakovich went through a slump after that, which is reflective of how the arts suffered during this time period in the Soviet Union.
  • Magnitizdat

    "Magnitizdat" was the practice in the Soviet Union of distributing illegal tape recordings of music that didn't conform to Soviet standards. While it was not profitable for the artists, the purpose was to protest and avoid the heavy restrictions that the government placed on the arts. This grew very popular in the late 20th century as artists performed jazz, rock, and other Western styles that were not allowed.
  • Fall of the Soviet Union

    When the Soviet Union fell, many musicians who had previously been exiled were able to return to Russia. Additionally, restrictions were lifted and the arts were able to have much more creative freedom.
  • Current Russian Music Trends

    Russian music in the past few decades has been influenced by American and other Western music styles. Rock music gained popularity, but it is now declining and becoming a niche interest. Pop music has been growing in popularity as it has become more accessible due to cell phones and increased technology. These are all reflective of the decreased restrictions on musicians since the end of the Soviet era.
  • Period:

    Church and Folk Music

    Russian folk music was either vocal or instrumental and Russians used unique instruments that weren't found in other parts of the world. Their sacred music was centered around the Russian Orthodox Church. There are not many recordings online of music from this time period; this is largely due to the fact that, prior to Russia's westernization, they hadn't adopted commonly-used music notation systems, and therefore their folk music is not written down or spread widely through oral tradition.
  • Period: to

    Globalization and Introduction of Classical Customs

    Russian music truly underwent a large transition during this time period. In the beginning, they were introduced to Western music, including French, Italian, and German opera. Later on, Russian nationalism became prominent and developed into a musical style. Towards the end of this time period, Marxism was gaining popularity and the government was suppressing those and other revolutionary ideas, which led composers to be extremely nationalistic and supportive of the government.
  • Period: to

    Soviet Era

    The Soviet government was very oppressive, both in terms of society and music. They suppressed ideas that did not align with their political views, and that same attitude continued in the arts. Restrictions were placed on composers, and they became stronger during the Cold War. Composing or creating music freely was an act of rebellion, as seen in the 1980s, and many composers and musicians were exiled because of their music.
  • Period: to

    Post-Soviet Era

    The Post-Soviet Era in Russia marked the end of limitations on musicians and increased freedom and creativity. However, creating was no longer an act of rebellion, which was very distinctive of many types of music in previous decades. Post-Soviet music was strongly influenced by Western musical trends, including Rock-n-Roll and Jazz music.