Sounds of a ‘rotting city’: Punk in Russia’s Arctic Hinterland

H. Pilkington, B. Lashua (Editor), K. Spracklen (Editor), S. Wagg (Editor)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Russia is far from the natural habitat of punk. Since its emergence in Soviet Russia of the late 1970s (Steinholt, 2005, pp. 69–70), punk has defied de facto any structuralist explanation of the movement as the manifestation of resistance to capitalism’s attempt to repress and contain desires into forms useful to capitalists (Thompson, 2004). At the same time, readings of British punk as the culmination of twentieth-century radical aesthetic movements such as avant-garde Dadaism, futurism, surrealism, or expressionism (Marcus, 1989) have little resonance in state-socialist societies, where 1968 was associated not with student radicalism but with the crushing of the Prague Spring. Arguments that punk was the product of rock music turning against its own commercialization (Savage, 1991, p. xv) or the disengagement of radical counter-culture from its increasingly industrially incorporated soundtrack (Moore, 2010, pp. 5–8) also fall short of the mark. Punk in late Soviet Russia shared the underground with other forms of rock music rather than being pitted against the popular music industry (Pilkington, 1994, p. 229). Indeed, given that in 1976–1977 rock music was still struggling to establish itself, there was little need for punk’s musical revolt against its, as yet unestablished, canons (Gololobov and Steinholt, 2014, p. 22). Yet punk has proven to be more than a momentary, mimetic phenomenon in Russia. After its emergence in Leningrad and then Moscow, it extended into the Russian hinterland and developed a distinctive sound associated primarily with the Siberian punk wave and, in particular, the music of Egor Letov and the band Grazhdanskaia Oborona (Steinholt, 2012).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSounds of the City: Popular Music, Place and Globalization
EditorsB Lashua, K Spracklen, S Wagg
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Ltd
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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