Saturday 23rd September 2017,
Post-Soviet Graffiti

Цой жив! The Walls That Mourn Viktor Tsoi

Tsoi and Kino. August 2011. Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Photo: Alexis Zimberg).

As political tensions heighten throughout the region, we at PostSovietGraffiti.com want to step back from Russia’s upcoming Presidential Election and dedicate this week’s post to a softer power – to Viktor Tsoi and his graffitied rock and roll legacy.

Tsoi, the frontman of infamous rock group Kino, inspired late-Soviet, Muscovite youth through his many albums, allegedly wholesome lifestyle, and well-crafted lyrics. Many of Kino’s albums were produced samizdat (self-produced and self-distributed), as the band lacked state support. The Soviet government of the early 1980s pegged rock groups as inherently anti-state and Kino was no exception. The authorities marked Tsoi as an undesirable figure on account of his anti-establishment and anti-war themes.

Tsoi Wall. Old Arbat. August 2011. Moscow, Russia. (Photo: Alexis Zimberg).

The following video is a popular 1982 song “Elektrichka,” a term that describes the Soviet-style, electric suburban train. State leadership banned performances of the song as its lyrics struck an apathetic chord and painted an anti-state metaphor:

“Почему я молчу, почему не кричу? Молчу/ Электричка везёт меня туда, куда я не хочу. (Why am I silent, why not crying? I am silent./ Elektrichka takes me where I don’t want to go.)”

On Left: “Tsoi Lives.” On Right, a painting of Tsoi. Tsoi Wall. Old Arbat. August 2011. Moscow, Russia. (Photo: Alexis Zimberg).

As Gorbachev’s Glasnost’ and Perestroika polices started to expose Soviet truths, Tsoi called for change. The following clip is of Kino’s “Peremen (Change),” released in 1986:

In 1990, Kino’s frontman tragically died in a (sober) car accident. Brokenhearted followers mourned Tsoi’s death by memorializing his life on Russian walls.  Along the old Arbat in downtown Moscow, and throughout the streets of Russia’s urban centers, fans pay their respects by dedicating ritualistic street art to their beloved hero. Even today, Tsoi Wall remains a sacred, dynamic, and unbuffed fan wall.

Tsoi Wall. Old Arbat. Moscow, Russia. August 2011. Researcher’s Own.

“Kino. Tsoi.” August 2011. Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Photo: Alexis Zimberg).

A Memorial to Viktor Tsoi at the Foot of Moscow’s Tsoi Wall. August 2011. Moscow, Russia. (Photo: Alexis Zimberg).

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7 Comments

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