Heli Reimann: Getting-by': musical everyday of jazz musicians in Soviet Estonia


Although jazz experienced low political tolerance in Soviet Union, and it was censored and subjected to the model of Soviet cultural governance, the music, however, never disappeared. It was actively practiced by the musicians who tried to 'get-by' in the provided conditions and play their music beloved.

This study narrates minute ‘micro-stories’ about the everyday lives of the musicians of late-Stalinist era (1944-1953). I will connect this study methodologically to Alltagsgeschichte - the German school of the history of everyday life. According to its founder Alf Lüdtke (1995) Alltagsgeschichte emphasises that everyday life is not just a struggle for survival - people are both objects and subjects of their history.

The focus on musicians and their strategies for selecting from the ‘cultural repertoire’ demonstrates that main motivator of the musicians was their desire for musical self-actualisation. Factors in the everyday strategies of the musicians for self-actualisation were touring, musical learning and listening, ritualising, humour, inventiveness, curiosity, dedication, and intellectualising jazz.




Heli Reimann is a PhD fellow at the University of Helsinki in the faculty of Musicology.
I hold degrees in saxophone performance and instrumental pedagogy. My deep interest in jazz music took me to the Sibelius Academy Jazz Department, Florida State University and Rutgers University Newark (Master's Program in Jazz History and Research). I recently submitted my PhD thesis titled 'Jazz in Soviet Estonia from 1944 to 1953: meanings, spaces and paradoxes'. My research activities lie in the interstices between jazz studies, cultural studies, Soviet studies, cultural history and jazz education.