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Guide to Russia > Russian Culture



The most comprehensive guide to Russian rock and underground on the Web.

Read our article on Russian rock here, then choose an article/s of interest:

►Café Saigon
►Zhanna Aguzarova and BRAVO
►Popular rock music in Russia today


Russian rock and underground music is one of the most interesting topics to get involved with. I have been working as a journalist in this field for the past 10 years and studied the topic deeply and with great passion. I'm almost ready to write a thesis on Russian rock! Anyway, I'll try to explain, step by step, the most interesting events and discuss the profiles of some of the best musicians from the past 50 years. For the purposes of this article, I thought it would be most interesting and logical to start the story of Russian rock from its current position in the music industry to its development in the past.

The Russian rock movement occurred during Soviet times and was seen as a protest against Soviet authorities and prohibition. The music was deeply rooted underground, because such expressions of speech were outlawed by Soviet politics and thought. The same situation existed with the Russian mass media; all the newspapers and TV channels were under strict government control. All who wanted to speak the truth or just simply talk about what was going on abroad, or what was happening with Russian underground literature, music, whatever - all these people had to take a major, life-threatening risk and produce small underground newspapers. However, these underground newspapers, called "samizdat", very quickly found a niche audience all over the country. The progressive part of the Soviet population was eager to find out what was happening around the world. People were seeking the truth and were sick and tired of the stupid tales the government fed them with. There were a few famous "samizdat" newspapers; one in particular was called "Nsk", which was published in Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia and a very brave and progressive city in the middle of Russia. Another "samizdat", created by the famous musical critic Andrey Burlaka, was based in St. Petersburg (former Leningrad) and called "Roxy Music". Yet another "samizdat" paper, which later became the magazine "Rock FUZZ", also appeared in Leningrad, on March 2, 1991. The founder of FUZZ was Alexander Dolgov, a former submariner who fell in love with rock music and decided to provide everyone with information about his favorite rock bands, which were already in full bloom in Western countries. The most interesting thing is that FUZZ is one of the youngest rock magazines that appeared during the death of the Soviet Union and the only one which still exists nowadays. Almost 15 years of rock music history has been captured in this great looking glossy magazine, which to this day writes about the Russian rock scene, in addition to Western rock musicians such as the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and even the modern "Rammstein" and stylish Tori Amos. During all these years FUZZ has had the unique opportunity to tell the Russian population interested in music a lot of information about the very culture of rock music. Along with Western music magazines, FUZZ was devoted to writing about all the interesting anecdotes in the local music scene. Some of the artists that first appeared on the pages of the magazine later became famous rock stars, for example CHAIF or AGATA KRISTY.

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Every year since April 1997, FUZZ sponsors a music festival. The main idea of this fest is to highlight the musicians who made the best contributions to Russian rock music during that year. This event always gives young musicians the opportunity to conquer the big stage and to showcase their creative work to a large and enthusiastic audience. Traditionally the FUZZ festival is held in St. Petersburg in the Sport Palace "Ubileyny". This is a prestigious stage and every year FUZZ manages to gather together about ten interesting artists and make a wonderful concert.

To give you some idea of how the modern Russian music shows look like here is a small report. The show started at 7 p.m. with a video installation. Then a rocket shot upwards filling everyone with the feeling that something great was going to occur in the next couple of hours. The short movie clips showed some live concert gigs of the most famous Russian rock artists…and then in the dark hall the lights were turned on and the show began. One by one, each group appeared on stage and performed their hearts out. An interesting detail was that this year there were two drum-sets on stage, which helped to shorten the time between the different groups' performances. While the bands rocked out on stage, above them were video installations which showed clips from FUZZ festivals of the past. This was a very nostalgic festival for those that frequented the festival every year since its humble beginnings. Because of these videos, the whole concert was like one, long, nonstop show. The groups all had different creative and musical levels and each had a different level of popularity among their Russian fans; but the most popular groups are the ones that have lasting power. These groups are the ones that made an impression on the Russian rock scene and contributed to it significantly. In 2005, the festival was held on the 9th of April and featured the following Russian artists: LENINGRAD, NOCHNIYE SNAIPERY, SURGANOVA AND ORCHESTRA, KOROL AND SHUT, Vyacheslav Butusov, DOLPHIN, MULTFILMY, PTVP, AMATORY, and DEGENERATORS

When it first appeared on Russian soil in the 1960s, rock music went through a long journey of self-identification, which eventually matured and developed to become the leitmotif for many people's lives. At least three generations of St. Petersburg's citizens, which include famous painters, poets, scientists, journalists, etc., have been touched by rock music in one way or another.

In all the cities of the former Soviet Union, rock music had an uneasy beginning. But it was in Leningrad/ St. Petersburg that fueled Russian's rock's birth and growth and the city itself became the royal soil, where the assimilation and evolution of rock-culture flourished. It was exactly here that the process of blind copying Western music was eliminated and instead original and creative work began being developed. Here the talents of Boris Grebenshikov (AKVARIUM), Viktor Tsoi (KINO), Mike Naumenko (ZOOPARK), and Sergey Kuryokhin (POP-MECHANIKA) prospered and became well known to rock lovers everywhere. From different parts of the entire country such musicians as Uriy Shevchuk (DDT), Alexander Bashlachev, Vyacheslav Butusov (ex-NAUTILUS POMPILIUS) came together in St. Petersburg and began to slowly climb into the limelight and develop a small yet loyal following. It was also in this city that good guys like Alexander Rosenbaum and Mikhail Boyarskiy - the famous bards - developed their talents and took music to a new extreme. Finally, it is very interesting that it was in St. Petersburg that the first rock-club in Russia appeared.

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