Punk in Russia: a short history

Ivan Gololobov, Yngvar Steinholt, Hilary Pilkington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

This article concerns the cultural evolution of punk in Russia. The work covers the period from the late 1970s (when the first punks appeared in the USSR) to the mid-2010s. The study offers a critical reflection on (1) the first examinations of the history of Russian punk, which saw Russian punk as a culturally homogenous phenomenon, and (2) Western works understanding Russian punk as an essentially mimetic entity, copying "authentic" Anglo-American originals. Methodologically, the work departs from the claim of Penny Rimbaud, a musician and philosopher, one of the founding members of The Crass, and a leading ideologist of the DIY movement, on the essentially negative identity of punk. According to Rimbaud, punk continuously avoids positive cultural connotations and resists any closed discursive literality. Investigating the history of the punk scene in Russia, the authors show that, in contrast to Anglo-American punk, Russian punk did not emerge out of a cultural revolution, but rather developed in an evolutionary way. Having emerged on the periphery of rock culture, which itself was a deep underground phenomenon, Russian punk did not aim to confront the commercialization of rock. Instead, it aimed to radicalize the struggle of rock for cultural autonomy. As a result of the inevitable break with both Western punk (which actively distanced itself from mainstream rock) and the Russian rock scene (which did not accept the radical aesthetics of punk), the cultural identity of the punk scene in Russia was inherently precarious and unstable. It was formed in constant negotiation between its relationship with Russian rock culture on the one hand, and Western punk on the other. In the article, the authors distinguish several waves that define the meaning of punk in concrete historical circumstances, and show how diachronic ruptures fragmented cultural discourse of punk even further, which made it impossible to approach it as a single and homogeneous phenomenon, but which provided it with a unique discursive openness and relevance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-61
Number of pages35
JournalLogos (Russian Federation)
Volume26
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Keywords

  • Cultural history
  • Identity
  • Mimesis
  • Popular culture
  • Protest
  • Punk
  • Style

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    Gololobov, I., Steinholt, Y., & Pilkington, H. (2016). Punk in Russia: a short history. Logos (Russian Federation), 26(4), 27-61.