Televised Youth

The older generation watches KVN

Globally, television was booming in the 1970s and 1980s, as it became an industry that entertained and often pushed certain political agendas. Similar to the Soviet film culture that historically challenged the values of the Soviet Union, TV shows had the opportunity to weekly immerse viewers in anti-communist satire, and the “signal reached roughly 70% of Soviet territory by 1970″ (KVN Canceled). The Soviet game show that was first broadcast in 1961, Club of the Merry and Resourceful (also known as KVN), was an attempt to combine elements of sport, youthful rebellion, and political satire into a form of entertainment that would attract an audience and challenge the norms of a state still conscious of public opinion. The premise focused on a two-team competition between groups of students that challenged improvisational skills, humor, and basic knowledge. As one could foresee, the unfiltered minds of youth and the show’s encouragement of uncensored improvisation brought impending criticism from the state. The program became more and more popular throughout the Soviet Union, and “in the 1970s, the show was cancelled for ideological reasons: the student teams too frequently made fun of Soviet life and ideology” (Tagangaeva, 2013, p. 11). However, some of the reasons for its end were practical.

KVN2Beyond the political censorship, the common complaints were that the natural unscripted characteristics of the show became compromised as popularity and money corrupted the writers and producers. As time progressed, the show went from being shot live to being filmed in advance due to increasing censorship of its unpredictable contestants. For better or worse, “KVN delivered a neat and useful package by design: ‘the thinking person on the screen’ (a male figure marked universal) as a model for Soviet viewers” (Crowley and Reid, 2010, p. 163). However, the ideas the show promoted were criticized for conflicting with the politically correct society of the Soviet 1960s. The Jewish humor that was instrumental in the start of the show came under attack in the 1970s, as Sergei Lapin, the chairman of the State Committee for Television and Radiobroadcasting, pursued a personal vendetta against Jewish television hosts and contestants throughout his reign. Ultimately, in 1972, KVN was canceled for overstepping its artistic and political boundary, but it highlighted the continued power of media in the Soviet Union. After a long hiatus, KVN returned in 1986 in the wake of Gorbachev’s policy reforms, and it continues to flourish in modern day Russia.

redstarThis post received a “Red Star” award from the editorial team


Pleasures in Socialism: Leisure and Luxury in the Eastern Bloc

KVN Canceled

Political Humor on Russian Television


8 thoughts on “Televised Youth

  1. I am definitely seeing a trend of the terms “youth” and “rebellion.” This was an interesting post, I had never heard of this show, but with the way it’s explained I’m a little surprised how long it lasted. I liked the picture at the beginning marking out the “older generation” watching the show. Interesting post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s interesting that reality TV has been popular since the beginning! The KVN reminds me of what has happened in today’s modern television. It first started out as unscripted, but as time progressed, it has become scripted and played off as “real.” The KVN demonstrates just how much control the USSR government had over their people.


  3. Really interesting post. I find it amazing that the government would even allow this program to air because of the possibility that it could go off the rails and make mock the Soviet way of life. I wonder if they allowed this because they didn’t at first realize the possibilities that tv presented, especially to spread dissenting opinions. The statistic you shared about 70% of the Soviet Union receiving tv signal to be interesting. While they had access to the signal, I wonder how many people actually had televisions to watch the show.


  4. I had no idea that something like this could get by the pilot stage in the USSR. You can see shows like this today in America (SNL, the Daily Show, etc.) that you’d never put in this time period. I just think it’s ironic how Russia has always painted itself as a “nondiscriminatory nation” with races, but yet condemn this one broadcaster for being Jewish. Great post!


  5. This was a very interesting post! Like Mitch said I too when reading this post found it amazing that the government would allow this show to be aired do to the fact that it did make fun of the Soviet way of life at times and the show could alter the opinions that viewers had about the socialist society that they were living in. I wonder what if anything would have happened if the show was not cancelled? Do you think it would have created different opinions in the Soviet people or not?


  6. Good post here. I think one of the more powerful statements was the mention of how the ideas of the show “conflict[ed] with the politically correct society of the Soviet 1960s”. Throughout history the Soviet isn’t the only country to try and influence the population in a manner that fits with the societal norms of the time.


  7. I find this post very interesting in that the Soviet’s even allowed unscripted television. No doubt it eventually was censored so much that it was forced to become prerecorded! It appears to be similar to game shows today such as Family Feud.


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