Allowed for Performance: Punk and Rebellion in 1980s Siberia

[From the Blog Noisey]

Cultural-Revolution-performs-at-Tyumen-festival-in-1988--from-Artur-Strukov-s-archivesFor a kid who grew up listening to the Belorussian disco-pop band Verasy and saccharine hits like, “I Live with Grandma,” Soviet punk arrived as both a provocation and a call-to-arms. It was, to paraphrase former Samizdat journalist Alexander Kushnir, like finding a knife in your pocket, or discovering a death-cult next door. One minute you’re a straight-backed Young Pioneer, spooning down whatever music Melodia (the USSR’s sole, government-run record label) deemed toothless enough for mass-consumption—Italian love songs, life-affirming Soviet ballads, the preternaturally unhateable ABBA and aforementioned bad disco—the next you are head-banging to ditties like “Old Age — No Joy,” “Corpse Smell,” and “Hey Broad, Throw Up.” Years before Gorbachev took the podium at the 1986 Congress of the Communist Party and uttered the word “glasnost,” musical Perestroika had already begun.

The idea that remote concrete cities born of Gulag labor, more than a thousand miles east of Russia’s cultural capitals, served as the Soviet punk scene’s Lower East Side may sound bizarre to Western ears, but it was actually Siberian bands like Civil Defense, Survival Instruction, and BOMZh who produced the raw and unapologetically polemical music that came to define the last generation of Soviet youth, a generation for whom change couldn’t come fast enough.

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