Slovakian curator and record collector Mario Cocotello runs an Instagram page on which the past comes to life everyday. The page, @punk_behind_the_iron_curtain, contains carefully selected and curated images concerning the introduction of punk rock not just as a music genre, but as a social movement in a place and time you might not expect; the former Soviet Union in the 70’s and 80’s. Soviet authorities really didn’t know what to do with punk, labeling it “bourgeois” and “excessive.” These tensions play out in the photos and ephemera that Mario has amassed, and while they may have dissipated with increasing globalization, this history was certainly one worth archiving.
I spoke with Mario this past week about his project.
Katherine: How long have you been running this account?
Mario: I started this past August. I was thinking “everybody cares about US, UK, Sweden, or Japan punk scenes but there’s nobody writing/publishing photos from East Europe.”
K: How do you find the photos to post? Can you give some insight on your process?
M: I am from Slovakia, so I know the history of Czechoslovakian punk rock. I know people who run some Facebook pages about punk history over here. Most importantly, I am the biggest walking encyclopedia of 80’s hardcore punk in the world/ There’s no issue funding photos online when I know so many bands.
K: Alright, Mr. Encyclopedia; what are some bands that you’d recommend to someone who knows nothing about Eastern European punk?
M: From East Germany: definitely NAMENLOS, SLIME, or L’ATTENTAT.
From Poland: DEZERTER, ARMIA, ABBADON, or SIEKIERA.
Czechoslovakia: FPB, DAVOVA PSYCHOZA, KRITICKA SITUACE, or HNF.
Hungary: AURORA CIRKALO, ETA, or CPG.
Yugoslavia: too many good bands to list. There wasn’t as much of a dictatorship as there was in other countries, and that led to a higher quality and quantity of music.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Part of the reason that Yugoslavia produced such good music was the government’s big investment in the arts. The government-run record labels, most notably PGP-RTB, proudly recorded, promoted, and distributed music by punk bands, even if the music was critical of the government. They also reissued western rock and pop records, which helped inspire those musicians even further. Check out this 2017 New York Times piece for more info.
Mario also shared some of his favorite pictures that he’s found. Those can be found below. You can check out the rest of his collection on his Instagram page. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can listen to music from nearly all the bands listed above, among others HERE.