Ilya Kormiltsev (1959-2007)
Published: February 9, 2007 (Issue # 1244)
Ilya Kormiltsev, poet, translator, the head of the radical publisher Ultra Kultura and a former songwriter for the Soviet rock band Nautilus Pompilius, died in London on Sunday. He was 47.
Late last month, Kormiltsev was reported to have been hospitalized in London, diagnosed with cancer of the spine in its worst stage.
A persistent critic of the Kremlin’s politics, Kormiltsev protested when former Nautilus Pompilius’ singer Vyacheslav Butusov performed, for a fee, for 5,000 activists of Nashi at the Kremlin-backed youth movement’s summer camp in July 2006. He compared Nashi with the Chinese Cultural Revolution’s infamous Red Guards.
In articles and interviews, Kormiltsev accused former rock scene peers in betraying the dissenting nature of the music when Akvarium’s Boris Grebenshchikov, Leningrad’s Sergei Shnurov and the others secretly met the Kremlin’s ideologist Vladislav Surkov in 2005.
“It means that the people don’t think about their future, above all,” he said in an interview with The St. Petersburg Times last August.
“The Surkovs come and go, but you won’t be able get back your reputation.”
Kormiltsev was born on Sept. 29, 1959 into the family of geologists in Sverdlovsk, as Yekaterinburg was then known. He graduated from the chemistry department of the Urals University in 1981.
In the 1980s, Kormiltsev became active at the then-burgeoning Sverdlovsk underground rock scene, writing lyrics for several local bands including bands Urfin Dzhus and Nastya.
But he is best-remembered for co-writing some of the best-known Nautilus Pompilius songs, such as the anti-totalitarian anthems “Skovanniye Odnoi Tsepyu” (Chained Together) and “Shar Tsveta Khaki” (Khaki-Colored Globe).
Always an opponent to the Soviet and post-Soviet authorities, he rejected the Lenin Komsomol Award that was given to Nautilus Pompilius in 1989.
In the 1990s and 2000s, he became well-known as a translator. He translated many English and American works by authors such as William Burroughs and Bret Easton Ellis.
More recently, Kormiltsev’s publishing house attracted controversy by putting out a wide range of nonconformist literature, from skinhead memoirs to anthologies of American Beat poetry to the prison essays of National Bolshevik Party founder Eduard Limonov.
Ultra Kultura was under permanent attack from the authorities and was accused, alternatively, of promoting drug use, or spreading pornography.
Kormiltsev is survived by his wife, the opera singer Alesya Mankovskaya, and a son, Stas.
A memorial service will be held at the Central House of Writers in Moscow at 11 p.m. on Friday. A funeral service will be held at Moscow’s Troyekurovskoye Cemetery at 2 p.m.
— By Sergey Chernov