Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Reggie  Nadelson

Mary Kate  Conley 

The USSR: How Rock ní Roll and Jazz Led to Cultural Repression and the Collapse of the Soviet Union

Artie Cohen: The Unfortunate and Magnificent Life of a Martyr from Moscow

Author Reggie Nadelsonís character Artie Cohen plays the role of a dedicated New York City police detective who spends all his time saving others rather than reflecting on his own salvation. Having grown up in Moscow during the Cold War, Cohenís past haunts him. Artie moves to New York in hopes of attaining the freedom that he heard about in popular media, like American jazz and rock music. Upon immigrating to the United States, however, Artie realizes that corruption is present no matter how far he travels from the USSR. Artie falls into a life of chasing down and cleaning up after the criminals of New York, dealing with the Russian mafia, dirty politicians, prostitution, theft, and child murder victims. In the book Fresh Kills, for instance, he loses his only surviving family member, his nephew Billy. Artie knows he is trapped in a vicious cycle of melancholy that he can never escape. His story reveals the unsettling reality of a man who struggles with being deeply flawed living in a foreign place he wishes to call home.

Artie Cohen found solace in American popular music, just like many Russian youths used the ideals of liberation in American popular music to fight against cultural repression in the Soviet Union. Growing up in the Soviet Union meant growing up under extreme censorship. Few knew of democracy or life beyond the Iron Curtain until they were introduced to American Jazz during WWII and rock music later on in the 1960s. Rock and jazz carried ideals of free expression and freedom from oppression. Soviet youths related to this free-form, oppositional music because they, too, were fighting a war against cultural oppression. Due to censorship, Soviet citizens struggled to listen to Western music. There was an influx of bootlegging and pirating of music. Many developed doubts about their government when they realized it was not the English speaker who was the enemy. People decided to abandon Communism, which led to the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union.

Major Works Consulted:

Nadelson, Reggie. Fresh Kills. New York: Walker Publishing, 2007.
--. Londongrad. New York: Walker Publishing, 2010.
Volkov, Solomon, and Antonia W. Bouis. The Magical Chorus: A History of Russian Culture from Tolstoy to Solzhenitsyn. New York: Knopf, 2008
Sandler, Martin W. How the Beatles Changed the World. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013.
Photo Credit: Wynne, Frank . Reggie Nadelson. 2008. Reggie Nadelson's Author Page. Reggie Nadelson: Author, Journalist, Filmmaker.