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Rockers of the world unite

Controversial punk rockers Pussy Riot have attracted a wave of sympathy from across the Atlantic.

Published: June 27, 2012 (Issue # 1715)



  • Pussy Riots anti-Putin performances included one on Moscows Red Square back in January.
    Photo: pussy-riot.livejournal.com

  • Russian-American singer Alina Simone took part in Saturdays benefit.
    Photo: VINCIANE VERGUETHEN

  • Anti-Flag released a cover of Pussy Riots punk prayer last week.
    Photo: RCA RECORDS

Soviet punk rock becomes relevant again when human rights are challenged, according to New York promoter Bryan Swirsky, who is currently working on a compilation of Soviet and Eastern European punk. Last week, he promoted a Pussy Riot benefit in Brooklyn to support the three imprisoned members of the Russian feminist punk group, whose pretrial detention was last week prolonged until July 27 in Moscow.

The women Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 were arrested in March and charged with hooliganism motivated by hatred toward a religious group for performing an anti-Putin song in a Moscow church. The offense is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Held at The Knitting Factory on Saturday, the benefit featured diverse music from klezmer, as performed by Frank London & Di Shikere Kapelye (The Inebriated Orchestra) featuring Michael Alpert, to alt-rock from artists such as singer-songwriter Alina Simone.

I was raised in an era when punk rock was a viable form of protest, when political theater and satire and making bold statements to protest against the government was considered a normal thing to do, Swirsky said by phone Sunday.

It all comes out of free expression movements like the beatniks and the early hippies, and the punks were an extension of that. So when I caught wind of what Pussy Riot were doing, I got to thinking about how it relates to what was happening in America and England in the 1970s and the 1980s.

And it also reminded me of what was happening in Russia and the Soviet Union when rock bands were first starting to germinate in the 1970s, especially bands like The Plastic People of the Universe from the Czech Republic, who were notoriously thrown in jail repeatedly and considered enemies of the state during the normalization [period in Czechoslovakia between 1969 and 1987].

The Soviet punk artists that Swirsky referred to and included in his compilation were Siberian musicians Yegor Letov and Yanka.

Letov, who gained underground fame in the 1980s as a singer-songwriter and the frontman of his band Grazhdanskaya Oborona, was persecuted by the authorities to the extent of being sent to a mental hospital a notorious Soviet practice for treating dissidents where he spent four months and was injected with neuroleptic drugs.

Anyway, when I heard that these women were being persecuted by the authorities, I thought that something needed to be done, Swirsky said.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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