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It’s perhaps time to end this maudlin phase on the blog, but before we go up-tempo, here’s an excuse to post another picture of ’80s Soviet rock icon Viktor Tsoi.  Nearly forgotten him had you? Newbies can start an excursion here to learn more about my chance encounter with Tsoi nearly a quarter century ago.

I may be wrong but I believe this photo was taken on Kodachrome transparency film.  I know I used a bit of Ektachrome in those days too, but I suspect this was 200 ASA, out of the red packet. Tuesday saw the demise of this much loved film brand.

On a happier note, I was recently reunited with my long lost Nikon FM, with which the above photo was taken.

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changes

15May08

Today marks 20 years since the Soviet army began withdrawing from Afghanistan.

Plus ça change, you could say. It’s not an anniversary I’m seeing flagged up in the media today. But then, we’re used to wandering the road less travelled over here at the Knackered Hack – if not completely untravelled.

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Crucial to the mounting tide of pressure that led to Soviet withdrawal was an opening up of the culture that started in early Spring 1986 when I visited Leningrad and met Kino‘s Viktor Tsoi (whom I snapped this picture of while he tuned up at a small concert in April ’86).

The song Peremen (or Changes) was an important anthem for that period, and perhaps Tsoi’s most recognized contribution to the tectonic shift in our geo-politics of the past two decades. It appeared to help mobilize Soviet youth culture toward a more democratic and uncertain future, even though accounts suggest that this was not Tsoi’s direct intention.

I’ve been very much taken with the following video of the song. The visuals aren’t of Viktor, of course, but this is nonetheless a powerful interpretation. I don’t know if he is using any recognised sign language (can anybody illuminate me?) but it certainly conveys something forcefully, whatever that something is. This was, incidentally, used as the soundtrack for a DIY, low-budget yet critically-acclaimed Russian film Dust (2005). I’ve not seen it, but this review sounds compelling if you are an art-house type.

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img075 For those anxious for more Kino to justify my pathetic plea to help recover that lost guitar, something to keep you going till I get more of a handle on all that material.

This was about as close as I got to Viktor Tsoi: too close, as you can see, for my camera to focus on him properly. As Iwan pointed out a good resource that archives a lot of the tracks online, here is some music to finish off the long Easter weekend (in the UK at least). Ironically entitled Poslednyi Geroi (The Last Hero), it was my favourite track from the album Noch’ (Night), released shortly after I met Viktor, Yuri etc.

I have not had time to select a good translation — that will remain a work-in-progress. As there is a lot of music I enjoy in English without understanding the words (even as a native English speaker) and I was singing uncomprehendingly in Latin over the weekend, I hope you won’t mind too much.

The Last Hero, Kino – Press Play

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This is a quick post to highlight, for the statisticians among you, two tails of fame.

My pictures below show an informal but nervous event in which a few hundred people fought and crammed their way in to see Viktor Tsoi and Yuri Kasparyan play a few songs. Their fame was clandestine. The video at the end shows what had happened to them (as Kino) in four short but tumultuous years in the late stages of the Soviet empire. It’s the difference between The Cavern and Shea Stadium, Russian style.

Things used to take a long time to set up in the Soviet Union. And that was as true of an underground concert as anything else. As I recall, there were a few technical problems before and during that 1986 concert; had there not been, I doubt I would have felt comfortable getting up and snapping. The artist is on the stage getting the unreliable equipment working, while the audience mills around after a very un-Soviet crush to get in. I don’t know if anybody had to pay – I certainly didn’t because Viktor and Yuri had invited me and the language-course crowd along as their guests.

The contrast with the later footage could not be more stark. There was a distinct absence of anything official in spring 1986, given how many people there were congregating in such an enclosed space. There’s a polite restraint amongst the audience, as if they’ve come to a favourite author’s signing session at the local bookstore. Nobody wants to embarrass themselves by looking too enthusiastic once through the door! But by 1990 a real hysteria has set in. As Viktor arrives for his last concert at Moscow’s huge Luzhniki Grand Sports Arena*, just a couple of months prior to his death, the streets leading up to the Olympic stadium are lined with scores of Russian police.

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A little translation for the video: the titles about halfway through, as a hand menacingly covers the lens, read “Luzhniki Grand Sports Arena 24 June 1990″ and then “The Last Concert of Viktor Tsoi”.

Boy, would I fight to get into a room with them now!

*For soccer fans, the stadium is due to host the 2008 UEFA Champions League Final on May 21.

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Kino’s Viktor Tsoi

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