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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 Riot’s anti-Putin performances included one on Moscow’s Red Square back in January.
    Photo: pussy-riot.livejournal.com

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

  • Anti-Flag released a cover of Pussy Riot’s ‘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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Monday, Nov. 24


Dr. Axel Schulte, Department Head at Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics in Dortmund, Germany, is the featured speaker at the SPIBA Industrial Committee lecture on “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Digitalization of the Supply Chain.” The event begins at 4 p.m. at the Graduate School of Management at 3 Volkohvsky Pereulok and registration is required by Nov. 21 either by emailing office@spiba.ru or calling 325 9091.



Tuesday, Nov. 25


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