Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson
#21 - JRL 2008-45 - JRL Home
Context (Moscow Times)
February 29-March 6, 2008
Voicing a Protest Vote
Protest band Televizor sings "Your Putin is a Fascist."

By Sergey Chernov

'I disagree. With both sides," is the slogan on the posters for Televizor's concert at B2 on Thursday. The words are a quote from Mikhail Bulgakov's satirical novella "Heart of a Dog." In the week of the presidential election, the line clearly refers to President Vladimir Putin and his handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev.

The Moscow concert is going ahead, but the outspoken rock band had a concert canceled in St. Petersburg last week. The band used to push the limits of censorship in the 1980s, when it came out with songs such as "Get Out of Control" and "Your Daddy Is a Fascist," but the latest ban is the first since the Soviet period.

The St. Petersburg club ROKS canceled a concert called "The Other Music," the name referring to The Other Russia, even though posters were already on streets and tickets were on sale. The club's management said it did so because of planned power maintenance in the building -- and because the bands failed to inform the venue that the event was "political." The bands that were to take part, including Televizor and SP Babai, believe the club instituted the ban after a phone call from the authorities.

"The logic of events made me suspect long ago that it would all come to this in the end," frontman Mikhail Borzykin said in an interview this week. "The regime has nothing left to do but to grow more severe, because it has no constructive functions, and the development of free culture isn't in the plans of either Putin or Medvedev. The logic of the process is such that everything will only get worse."

Last year, Borzykin took part in four Dissenters' Marches and several other peaceful opposition rallies in St. Petersburg, some of which were violently dispersed by OMON forces. Meanwhile, his 1980s peers, such as Akvarium leader Boris Grebenshchikov and Alisa frontman Konstantin Kinchev, have built up cozy relationships with the Kremlin.

"I read too often [in their interviews] ... 'We are people of art, and art is higher than politics. A poet should not march,'" Borzykin said. "It's the same reasoning that I heard from people in 1985 and 1986. It's a surprising case of deja vu."

The singer wrote a song called "We're on the Different Sides of the Barricades" about some of his fellow rock musicians.

"I think one should live in step with reality. To do this, one should know it and understand it a little bit," he said.

"So I went out and took a look. And I saw that what I had been told was not quite true. The people who take part in Dissenters' Marches are mostly intellectual and spiritual, driven not by mercantile interests but rather by a feeling of the injustice of what is happening around them."

Some of Borzykin's new songs, such as "Stay Home," which urges the listener to go out and protest, and "Nail the Cellar Shut," a biting criticism of the current Kremlin rulers (the title refers to the Lenin Mausoleum), stem from his experience in street protests. He is reluctant to call them political, however.

"There's no sign of politics at all, I think this is a normal human reaction to pain, to injustice," Borzykin said.

"To call these songs political is perhaps conformist. A standpoint of 'I'm outside all of this' doesn't work anymore. You only can ignore the reality until you realize that you're already being raped. Or until something happens to your relatives in a nearby police precinct or on our crazy streets," he said.

Borzykin believes that the anti-totalitarian anthems he wrote in the 1980s have gained new relevance. For the last five years, he has dedicated his song "Your Daddy Is a Fascist" to Putin, changing the chorus to "Your Putin Is a Fascist."

In compliance with his stance, Borzykin will not be voting in Sunday's presidential election. "I will ignore the election, and I have nothing left to do but go to the Dissenters March on March 3," he said.

"I don't have much of a choice; my photo is on the front page of the newspaper calling people to come to the Dissenters' March. Five of the activists who distribute the paper near metro stations have already been detained. One was beaten. The choice has been made. On March 3, I will go to the march," he said.

Televizor plays Thurs. at 9 p.m. at B2, located at 8 Bolshaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Metro Mayakovskaya. Tel. 650-9918/09.