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30 Years of Change: Russian Culture Since Perestroika (3): Rock Music


*please note that unclaimed FREE tickets will be released to public at the start of the talk (6.30PM)

The period of Perestroika, starting with Mikhail Gorbachev’s speech to the CPSU Congress in 1986 and ending with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, had a defining impact on global politics and cultural life. In this '30 Years of Change' series of Pushkin House events, created by Vlad Strukov (University of Leeds) and Anna Kan (University of Bristol), we aim to remember and reflect on the legacy of Perestroika and its relevance today, in Russia and internationally.  

'We’ve Been Taken on to TV, We’re a Decent Thing!’ (from an Aquarium song)

Our third evening in the series will be the first of a few events dedicated to Soviet and Russian rock. During these events we will explore whether rock music really "smashed the Wall", how the "second culture" that existed in the USSR was affected by Perestroika, and how rock music was evolving in the new Russian State.

The evening will start with the first UK screening of the first Soviet documentary about underground rock-music "Rock" (1988) followed by an introduction and post-screening Q&A with Alexander Kan.

The "Rock" documentary that was released in the USSR in early 1998 heralded the new era in the development of rock music underground. Almost overnight previously scolded and criticized rock-musicians turned into media darlings with millions of young fans around the huge country. "Rock" is a unique historic document. It was filmed in 1987, before the proper legalization of the genre and therefore it is the first, and in fact the last, cinematic documentation of the Leningrad rock underground at the time and place of its natural existence.  

How were rock musicians - until then known only to a few initiated -seen and understood by the wider audience? How close was the way director Alexei Uchitel portrayed them in the film to the real personalities? We will also speak about how the film launched a short period of rock-hysteria in the late Soviet Union and how this hysteria affected rock-musicians and their audience. What happened to the film's protagonists, the very prominent Russian rock-stars Boris Grebenshikov, Victor Tsoy, Yuri Shevchuk, and Oleg Garkusha, over the following 25 years?



Alexander Kan was a music critic, journalist and producer in Leningrad in the 1970s-1990s. Since 1996 he has lived in London and works as a BBC Russian Service Art and Culture Correspondent. He also continues to produce festivals and concerts in Russia and in the UK. He is the author of three books about music underground in the Soviet Union ("Poka ne nachalsya Jazz", 2008, "Kuryokhin", 2012, "Pop-Mekhanika", 2014) as well as a lot of articles in the Western and Russian media. 

Anna Kan is an historian and a University of Bristol Researcher, focusing on the late Soviet underground culture and its relations with the state. In the 1990s-2000s she was a press officer for rock group Aquarium, a producer and publisher, organised many big concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg and produced TV-films about Russian rock.

For each lecture in this series there are 10 free tickets available for students: email to reserve your place and present your student card on arrival.

Please note that the English subtitles are only easily visible from the first 3 rows. If you need to see the subtitles, when you have bought your ticket, please email to reserve one of these seats.