Updated: Apr 29, 2020
Punks. Known to be British, but what about Russian punks? Swedish Punks? Italian or Japanese punks. The subculture that never went away.
Punk in Russia isn’t something that I ever delved into. For some reason the concept strays to the UK and USA whilst listening to Zamrock from time to time. However, the idea that a country with such regimented rules such as Russia would listen to Punk somehow baffles me. Yet, it is perfect. Why wouldn’t they listen to it!? With a country full of control punk is the perfect genre to encompass how a Russian teenager may feel.
Having arrived in Soviet Russia in 1978, spreading through black market vinyl records and then exploding into state-controlled performance halls. Like many teenagers of the 70s, Russian youth slowly grew tired of hard rock of the 70s. So, as punk became a breath of fresh air, they too took on the look like many UK teenagers to adopted. Leather jackets, ripped jeans, pinned jackets with spiked or shaven hair.
For many teenagers, punk allowed a new style. It created a sense of individuality. Something away from their parents’ ideals and past the notion of the hippy movement. The ability to fight against something stronger. Everyone in Soviet Russia was equally poor, so unlike the English teenagers fighting against the establishment. They were to adopt the notion of “us against them.” The ‘them’ being the rest of the world. Russia seems like a country so far apart from our own views. Different cultures and lives that are so outside our zone, almost as if they have an invisible border around the country. Where you have no idea of their interests, a sense of protection from them to us.
Punk was natural for Soviet boys to adopt. Full of anger and intellect toward a new life and culture of thinking. However, while being separate to the Western punk they tried to imitate the Western punk look. Pushing their ways to find new ways to look like a real Soviet punk. Rather than having a pair of Dr Martens, since they wouldn’t have been available. They would instead wear military boots, something they were able to buy in any military store. And like punk jackets, they were created from a black navy jacket, found in the same supply chain.
Like any punk movement, they used something symbolised for something stronger than the movement itself. I.e. the establishment and anything to do with it. Taking an old suit jacket or navy jacket and shredding, pinning and making it as punk as possible. It’s no surprise that Soviet propaganda rejected the movement immediately. Articles about Western punk bands were published in Soviet press, accusing punks of aggressive and hatred behaviour.
Criticism such as this comes as no surprise to any rock band, many Western bands received it years before. The Rolling Stones being one, and many others will always follow.
Unable to understand all the details of the punk culture this became a problem. With Western punks using Nazi symbols, they hadn’t any idea that this was in-fact part of their attitude. Meaning, authorities disapproved and censored the punk movement. Therefore, punk bands in Russia found themselves in a tricky situation. This caused more and more underground movements to write negative articles about punk, as they were considered enemies of the state.
A large majority of Soviet journalists were hippies, rock or blues fans, and simply didn’t understand the movement. One of the first Soviet punk bands was AU or, Automatic Satisfiers, founded in 1979, Leningrad. The leader being Andrei Panov, with their earliest performances being held in private apartments. Until the point of joining the official Leningrad’s Rock Club, where they were able to play on a stage during festivals.
Their sound was typically punk, loud with heavy drum and guitar with strong vocals from Panov. However, on-stage he would often urinate in a glass during the band’s performance, then proceed to drink it. Which to say the least left viewers shocked. Another band, DK were more involved with the punk scene. Unlike Panov who simply didn’t care, the group DK’s leader, Sergiei Zharikov was smart. He was an intellectual who published a magazine about culture, society and ideology.
Come back for part 2.