Rock and Resistance in Putin’s Russia

On February 21, 2012, the feminist rock band Pussy Riot jumped on the altar in Moscow’s biggest cathedral and tried to play a protest song:

Virgin Mary, Mother of God

Put Putin Away!

The band members were arrested within minutes and sentenced to prison terms of two years each for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.”  And yet they play on.  Russian President Vladimir Putin can break up protests on the streets, but he can’t stop rock bands from rallying the opposition.

This Tuesday, come hear Russian rock critic Artemy Troitsky speak on the state of protest music under Putin’s regime.  That’s:

Rock and Resistance in Russia

March 26
2-4 p.m.
Skyline Commons

10 Replies to “Rock and Resistance in Putin’s Russia”

  1. According to the lecturer, in the late 1960s and 70s, rock music was during its most influential period in USSR. The function of Russia rock band is not only making people sing or dance, but more importantly, make people think of the reality. The lyrics were kinds of literature. In my view, this kind of profound pattern of lyrics have influenced the people during that period of time. Even though the influence did not being presented by the generation at that time, it let people comprehend the lyrics deeply to some extent, which is a foundation for the modern rock music criticizing politics and the government.

    Moreover, even though the media is controlled by the government, protesting bands such as Pussy Riot have some support of world-famous singers, whose influence is bigger and people from other parts of the world are able to know them through social media. Also, the young generation suddenly came out and joint the protest ally. These young people will absolutely influence the thoughts of the authoritarians. Though the government is repeating what USSR has done in the beginning of 1980s, massive attack and arrest the protest rappers and singers, the young generation will grow up to adults and ultimately make the government to reform toward democratic.

  2. Due to the collapse of Soviet Union in last decade of twentieth century, there was identity crisis and social norms reconstruction in Russia especially among the young teenagers. Though there wasn’t huge political or cultural protestant movement in music during 2000-2010, as Artery Troitsky mentioned, due to their focus on making money, the uprising of protesting band and rock music has come to the public— first song faced censorship from rap singer Noize MC, and protesting band Pussy Riot. Those rappers and rockers started to express their critique and even mocking sarcasm towards government.
    Year 2014 is a pivotal year which split the country even more seriously due to different political view towards the situation of Crimea and Ukraine. Under such circumstance, different rock bands and rappers’ critic songs regarding politics which has posted on the Internet have definitely left profound influence in Russian citizens and even in its politics to some extent. By expressing their dissatisfaction and unpleasantness towards political decision and unfair social class conflict, Russian rock music did play in important role in shaping its society and politics in a positive role under the censorship from government. A lot of musicians has expressed their strong demand and anticipation of free election in Russia and held a number of protest rally, among which the most famous one happened on December 24, 2011 in Moscow. Moreover, The musician Ivan Alexeev from Noize MC has written song directly aimed to support the victims of a car accident which later reported for irresponsibilities of Lukoil’s vice president. Those actions and music has directly expressed their will for social justice and fair treatment by government.

  3. Russian is generally a country hooked on literature. In this country, poets were seen as more than a poet, they were heroes that sang about reformation. The rock bands’ songs made people reflect on the social situations that could not be spoken. Bands like Pussy Riot jumped out and sang protest songs and made a great influence on the majority.

    The identity crisis in the 19th century had a huge impact on Russian society. When suddenly there were no censorship or regulations, people tend to work on what they saw as more modern and of value, such as starting businesses. Fighting back became less serious and people became more postmodernist, more trendy, and more reminiscent of what was going on in the outside world rather than what was happening. To obtain a more relaxing life, the majority gave up protesting.

    Pop and rock music artist and musicians became less independent since they fully depended on tv for fame. Since the government had control over their chances of appealing, even with thoughts of protesting, they tend to keep quite and pretend loyal towards political and governmental actions. In order to not be prevented from playing and to gain more popularity, they had the choice of either remaining silent or to say positive statements.

    Unexpected, in 2017 March 26, at a rally brought by Russians most oppositional leader, tens and thousands of teenagers appeared at the rally. Previously, the younger generation was not active politically. The prediction is that there was likely organized events on social media and was not controlled by the authority. With the reach to the outside world, the youngsters were aware of the problems in the country, even when the rock community was under the power of the government authority. It has acted as a guide that helped people understand the consequences in the country.

  4. What role can rock music play in offering resistance to a government that dominates the news media?

    According to Artemy Troitsky Rock music can play a larger role than most genres in resistance music. Russia did have a history of resistance music from the song “I don’t know why they’ve done it” which was sung in 1917 rock music had a more prolific effect. Rock music in the Soviet Union made listeners think as opposed to western rock bands. This legacy of music being more cerebral than in other countries carried through to the resurgence of resistance music in Russia. It was restarted in 2010 by Noize after they published a song in response to a car accident. As Troitsky pointed out this was the first song in 25 years that was censored on his radio. This censorship drew more attention to the issue. Pussy Riot uses similar tactics which gains them international attention (despite not being liked in Russia). Even though the government controls the media, resistance music uses both the content in their music and the censorship to gain traction and to resist.

  5. What role can rock music play in offering resistance to a government that dominates the news media?

    Under the government that dominates the news media, rock music becomes a platform not only for musicians but also political activists and feminists to express their political opinions and disagreements.

    In the lecturer, Artemy Troitsky said rock music was significant in the late 1960s and 70s because it challenged their existing ideologies and evoked people to think politics differently. Even though the control of the government make the musicians hard to change the governmental system dramatically, the lyrics inspired people in the future to further think and challenge the social norms.

    Later, in 1991 the ending of communism party became a time people could do whatever they want. Thus, they utilized the opportunity that society became more open than before to reform and innovate many songs. Instead of being singers, many of them also become producers, directors, etc.

    Artemy Troitsky gave the audience many examples such as NOIZE MC and Pussy Riot to show the impacts of the activism of musicians. NOIZE MC’s bold lyrics and strong attitude of the war and Pussy Riot’s feminism and political activism made people hard to ignore and started to think about their perspectives in the lyrics seriously. Even though Putin enhanced the unfreedom of speech, their courage and spirits became the models of future musicians.

    Additionally, Artemy Troitsky admits that there’s a period of time where stars and singers were afraid to say anything against the government since they highly relied TV. It was a difficult time for them because, on the one hand, they could not pretend that they were fully loyal to the government because by doing so will reduce their popularity among people. On the other hand, they could not say anything directly against the government because otherwise they would not be allowed to appear on TV anymore.

    Luckily, modern social media grows rapidly and the government is not able to fully control it strictly. Thus, more and more young people began to use it as a platform to express their political opinions toward the government.

  6. In response to the identity crisis within Russian society during the 19th century, bands like Pussy Riot and other artists voiced their thoughts of social issues in their works. Among them, the rock music community stood out as a guiding force for the young generation. As this unique form of music addressed elements that humanizing the West, it was essentially incoherent with the political system in Russia. However, the youth generation didn’t enjoy rock music for political reasons. The kids in Russia just enjoyed the structure of music itself and western values transmitted by these songs were rooted in the minds of the young generation. Rock music and the Russian political system are fundamentally opposing to each other because Russia government, or communism in a larger sense, cannot assimilate the influence of this western subculture.

  7. Although the event was called “Rock and Resistance,” lecturer Artemy Troitsky did not stick to rock music. He began with Alexander Vertinsky – active during the early 20th century – who sang in the genre of Russian romance: a style of sung poetry.
    American rock music was introduced to Russia in the early 60s, quickly becoming popular despite state restrictions. Soon, Russian musicians developed their own take on rock music, fusing rock with uniquely Russian styles.
    Troitsky explained that Russia has a deep tradition of political commentary through music. Through a discussion of prominent Russian musicians throughout the 20th century and present day, Troitsky was able to trace the pivotal moments of Russia history during that time. Vertinsky was a mild critic of the October Revolution of 1917 and Alexander Galich was an increasingly sharp dissident against the early Soviet Union who died under mysterious circumstances. In the latter half of the Soviet Union, censorship relaxed somewhat, inviting an onrush of several new bands.
    Troitsky presented a hesitantly optimistic view of Russia in the future. In the decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union, youth were drawn away from political protest, and many musicians were afraid to speak out against the new Russian government, fearing the inevitable retaliation that would damage their careers. In recent years however, the youth have become a lot more politically active. They are aided by the dramatic improvement of communications technology. In relation to the theme of musical protest, the Russian government can prevent subversive musicians from going on tour in Russia, but it is much harder to stop those musicians from posting their music videos online.

  8. After the introduction of American rock music to Russia, Russian musicians combined the rock music with Russian characteristics. This music in Russia at that time soon became really popular. One of the most interesting things about the popularity of the music is the connection between the music and politics. Since the media is controlled by the government, and people could not express their opinions freely, Russian bands such as Pussy Riot used their musics to reflect social problems and their own thoughts. They really care about the society that they live in. They expressed their strong willingness of having free elections, disclosed social issues, awoke young people, and so on. Though there were some musicians gave up making their musics relevant to politics because they were afraid of being punished by the government, there were still some passionate, patriotic young people who kept trying that. That is the charm of the music — it could be used to express something else, not only music itself. Recently, with the globalization, medias became more and more various. People can express their ideas online, and that could not be stopped by government. Thus, more and more musicians try to use musics to express political thoughts again. The rock music really influenced Russia a lot, both culturally and politically.

  9. What role can rock music play in offering resistance to a government that dominates the news media?

    According to Artemy Troitsky, rock music offered a way for people in Russia to think and protest reality. After the fall of the USSR, the style of music helped the resistance in the media since it was not restricted from censorship and people could say whatever they wanted. The style of music was serious and passionate, and it became a trend which reminiscent the outside world. Fast forward to 2010 rock music still served as a form of protest. The “New wave of Protest” which began by the rapper Noize MC showed the bold comments and general attitude of resistance. Musicians comment about public statements and form an essential part of the opinions of people in Russian politics.

  10. Rock music offered a way for people to express their feelings and voices in a time where the government didn’t allow that. The Russians adopted their own form of rock music by using the West as somewhat of an example; then, used the music to go against the government. Not all youth was invested in the political movement though; some enjoyed it because they liked the sound. The music became very popular and these bands and artists were able to use their influence as a platform for politics. in the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet, Union there was a time period where artists were more afraid of speaking out and the youth strayed from joining this movement but Troitsky said that is changing again and that more people are speaking out through music.

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