Grebenshchikov: Empires end badly

Russia’s most famous composer lashes out at Putin for Ukraine attack. He urges the Russians not to fall into depression because of what is happening today. He recalls that the Soviet Union was not only influenced by the West, but also by the East and the South.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – “There is an immortal soul, that of Blok and Turgenev, that of Igor’s Song of Hosts [un texto épico de la antigua Rusia]and an imperial soul that will end badly, as has happened in the past… There is a wonderful and universal Russia, and there are victims of the imperial conscience, whether Russian or British, or anywhere else.”

It is the warning of Boris Grebenshchikov, Russia’s most famous composer, when he speaks of today’s Russia, which seems to erase yesterday’s: “The Third Reich did not deny or erase Bach, Schiller or Goethe… The men who tried use Germany to build an empire have disappeared from the face of the earth, and so will Russia.

The artist emigrated to London after the invasion of Ukraine; he did it to “flee madness”. In recent days, he gave several interviews to present the release of his band’s new album Aquarium (‘The House of All Saints’), which he will combine with a concert tour of Europe. The dissident rock prophet of Soviet times confesses to Radio Svoboda: “Many of my friends and family still secretly hope that I will become a respectable person.”

Boris studied mathematics in his younger years, explaining that “there is a contradiction, often talked about by philosophers, between the description of the world by which we try to live, and the actual experience of the world.” The singer says that he experiences this in music, art and freedom, which teach him to really be himself: “Every time I wanted to become someone, life showed me something more interesting.”

In the 70s and 80s, Aquarium was many times censored and persecuted. “It would have been difficult to bear if he had expected the help of the state. However, he knew well, from the education he had received and from experience, that the state exists to use its citizens as slaves,” recalls Grebenshchikov. His parents taught him not to believe a word that is said on television and in official speeches: “The State,” he argues, “has nothing to do with real life.”

The singer urges Russians not to fall into a depression because of what is happening today: “There is no choice between life and death, there is only life. For me it is music, everyone expresses it in their own way.” In the most difficult times, Grebenshchikov was forced to work as a stadium caretaker, when even unemployment was prohibited by law, and music could only be made if it was the official one. At night, together with his friends, “colleagues” who also worked as caretakers, they published what was the first underground musical newspaper in St. Petersburg, “Roxy”, with poems, stories and drawings. “There was no getting bored,” recalls BG (Be-Yi, as fans call him).

When the Komsomol, the communist youth organization, expelled him, Boris was banned from giving concerts. He says that he feels gratitude towards the State: “I have paid my debt to them, they have given me freedom.” Grebenshchikov also represented “religious rock”, in a mixture of syncretistic spirituality, which greatly influenced the “religious revival” of youth before the end of the USSR. Even today he claims that “music reveals the divine nature, and makes you discover it within yourself, so you feel part of the divinity.” It is one of the most certain things of my entire existence; That’s why I’ve always said that when I sing, I feel like a god”.

Reflecting on the changes of post-communism, which resurface so much today in the negative judgments of Russian leaders, BG maintains: “We were not only under the influence of the West, but also of the East and the South. I listened to Japanese music, Chinese , Armenian, Indian, Latin American; I remember an album about the music of Asia and Africa that I liked very much”.

Grebenshchikov: Empires end badly