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Viktor Tsoi

Viktor Tsoi | Pioneer of Russian Rock

As mentioned in our previous post about Brat, the Soviet era was a harsh period in the Russian history. People wished for reforms, but no one was brave enough to speak up publicly. This changed from 1962 onward, when a young rebel was born in the city of Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg). His name was Viktor Tsoi. He was perhaps the most influential musician of the past five decades in Russia and for sure one of the leading pioneers of the Russian rock scene. Up until today Viktor Tsoi is still seen as face of a new generation daring to go against the grain.
During Viktor’s youth, his stubborn character soon became clear. He got expelled from art school because he couldn’t find his passion there, but two years later he began writing songs and in 1982 Viktor Tsoi made his debut. During this year he also found the band Kino (Russian for cinema) and they released their first album. Viktor believed that musicians didn’t dare to take chances and make music that was controversial or experimental in these times. This was exactly what he started doing, and most importantly, what distinguished him from the other musicians in the genre.
Pop music from Moscow was predominantly popular during these times. These pop musicians got subsidized and enjoyed plenty of attention in the media. On the contrary, the rock scene did not have these privileges and therefore remained largely underground. The rebellious spirit of the music was the main reason why it didn’t fit in with the restricted media of these times. Tsoi’s songs were loaded with dissatisfied political views, during times when it actually wasn’t possible to express these thoughts openly. This resulted in rapidly growing popularity among a fast group of youth that didn’t agree with the politics then either. During Glasnost, Tsoi continued spreading his work and gained a lot of popularity because of the more deliberate nature of the media.
During his career, Tsoi kept working at the Kamchatka bar despite his fame. This contributed to his iconic status for his fans, because he always stayed down to earth. After Tsoi’s death, he became even more popular and a cult originated around his being. At 15 August 1990, Viktor had a fatal car accident at the age of 28. His body deceased but his legacy lives on until the day of today and probably will for many years to come. Nowadays the Kamchatka bar is still working and more or less transformed into a museum dedicated to Viktor Tsoi. This is a place of pilgrimage for Tsoi’s admirers but also a place to perform for various bands influenced by his music. The place seems to have undergone no changes at all the past 3o years, the atmosphere makes you feel like you walked straight into the past. The Kamchatka bar is one of those places where you definitely want to go if you’re interested in Russia’s past especially when you can appreciate incredibly meaningful music.

Viktor Tsoi Saint Petersburg