Oleg Kozlovsky’s English Weblog

Politics, Democracy and Human Rights in Russia

Dissenters’ Rock: Traditions

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The Russian democratic movement is not merely a political phenomenon. Its values and aspirations are expressed in culture, most importantly, the music. Like I promised at Principia College, I’ll post several pieces on the music that inspires me and other Russian activists.

Dissenters’ music first appeared in the Soviet Union. Names of Alexander Galich, Vladimir Vysotsky and Bulat Okudzhava, so-called “bards,” were known to many Russians even in 1960s. However, the real boom of protest culture took place in late 1980s during the Perestroika. Rock music emerged from underground, openly and bluntly criticizing the stagnation and repressions in the country. Mashina Vremeni (Time Machine) and DDT were some of the most prominent bands of those days.

Some rock idols of Perestroika era still perform, but gave up their rebel sentiment. Andrei Makarevich (leader of Mashina Vremeni) and Boris Grebenschikov (leader of Aquarium) have been regularly meeting Vladimir Putin; Alisa band has performed at Nashi’s concerts. Some others have deceased like Viktor Tsoi (leader of Kino band) or Igor Talkov.

Kino was, arguably, the most famous Russian rock band of all times. Their songs performed by Viktor Tsoi remain popular even now, 20 years after Tsoi was killed in a car accident (some teenage Kino fans still write “Tsoi is alive” at Russian towns’ walls). Solidarnost made one of Kino’s masterpieces, “Перемен!” (Changes!), their anthem:

Перемен! / Changes!
Kino, 1989

(English lyrics based on Mavra‘s translation)

Instead of warmth, there’s only green glass,
Instead of fire, smoke.
Another day is crossed out on the calendar grid.
The red shining sun has completely burned out,
And this day goes out with it,
And over a glowing city, the shadow will fall.

CHORUS:
We want changes!
It’s the demand of our hearts.
We want changes!
It’s the demand of our eyes.
In our laughter, in our tears and the pulse in our veins.
Changes! We want changes!

Electric light continues our day,
And the box of matches is empty,
But in the kitchen, like a blue flower, gas burns.
Cigarettes in our hands, tea on the table,
So this scheme is simple,
And there’s nothing more left, it’s all up to us.

CHORUS

We cannot brag about the wisdom in our eyes
Or skillful gestures of our hands.
We don’t need this all to understand each other.
Cigarettes in our hands, tea on the table,
That’s how the circle is filled,
And suddenly we get scared to change something.

CHORUS

Oborona has also used one of Kino’s songs, “Попробуй спеть вместе со мной” (Try To Sing Along), for a clip about their latest summer camp (with English subtitles):

To be continued…

Written by Oleg Kozlovsky

February 14, 2010 at 19:25

Posted in essays

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One Response

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  1. Given the use the opposition movement is making of Tsoi’s work, it’s perhaps not surprising that the Putin regime is persecuting those who still listen to him and treating him, perhaps, even worse than in Soviet times:

    http://larussophobe.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/editorial-in-neo-soviet-russia-the-show-watches-you/

    A government that fears rock music is a weak, craven government not long for this world.

    La Russophobe

    February 15, 2010 at 14:58


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