Punk band that changed the face of Soviet Music

[from the Moscow Times]

5470-16-Letov46_2OMSK, West Siberia — Yegor Letov, the late father of Soviet and Russian punk, would have turned 50 this year. Along with his group, Grazhdanskaya Oborona (Civil Defense), or GrOb, Letov produced a music that was unlike anything the Soviet Union had ever heard, from the hardcore rush of guitars and barked obscenities that defined his uncompromising sound to acoustic, folk-like songs of alienation and despair. This was genuine rebel music, non-conformist to its core, combining Western rock and punk influences with the urban grittiness of provincial Siberia, where Letov was born and lived.

A complicated, often controversial figure, Letov was incarcerated in a psychiatric ward by the Soviet authorities during the band’s early years, and later became involved with radical political movements in 1990s Russia. Despite a Soviet-era ban and a stubborn refusal to “sell out” in the newly independent Russia, Letov’s recordings transformed him into one of the country’s most famous rock musicians. He died of heart failure in February 2008, at the age of 43. A new documentary film about GrOb’s early years, “I Don’t Believe in Anarchy,” was co-produced by Letov’s widow and former bandmate Natalia Chumakova and is due for release later this year.

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