Arkady Kots: We Will Have to Fight for the Future

Arkady Kots, The Belarusian Collection
Dec 28, 2020

We support rebellious Belarus. We hope that Belarusian workers, “social parasites,” women, students, pensioners, and the entire Belarusian nation wrest power from the bat-brained dictator and don’t surrender it to anyone.

00:00 – Solidarity
03:20 – Bella Ciao
06:28 – Walls
10:11 – Prison Song
13:01 – Song of the Jewish Partisans (“Zog nit keyn mol”)
19:22 – There Is Power in a Union
22:56 – Women’s Song (“L’hymne des femmes”)
25:19 – Counterattack
29:19 – Lusya
33:06 – Forest Song
35:55 – Peramozham
38:53 – Fog
41:10 – Who Shoots at Workers
44:44 – Nothing Works Without Love

#ArkadyKots #Walls #BelarusianCollection

_______________________________

“We Will Have to Fight for the Future!”
Arkady Kots premieres an album in support of Belarusian protesters on the Novaya Gazeta website
Yan Shenkman
Novaya Gazeta
December 28, 2020

Nikolay Oleynikov, musician, artist, and soloist in the group Arkady Kots:

We have been following the protests in Belarus from the outset. We were happy when our song “Walls” became one of the main [protest] songs there. And we were about to go to Minsk, everything was ready, but then the guys who invited us and promised to organize several concerts at factory gates wrote: “Stand down, all the factory gates have been occupied by the police.”

It is a pity that we were not able [to do the concerts], but it increased our desire to help Belarusians from here.

We saw that our government basically supports Lukashenko, and we thought it important to sing on behalf of those Russians who are unequivocally against the rout of the elections, against the savage crackdown, who support an independent Belarus, a country near and dear to us. Both our new songs and old ones gradually formed a statement that eventually turned into The Belarusian Collection.

First we understood how to make a Russian version of a song we had been trying to do for a long time—“Solidarity,” by the English punk band Angelic Upstarts, written in the 80s in support of the Polish trade unions. It has this interesting moment, atypical for protest songs, especially leftist ones—a reference to religion. “And we’ll pray for our nation through its darkest times,” they sing in the original. Sincere faith can drive a protest very far: priests played a big role in the Polish Solidarity  movement of the 70s and 80s. That victory, by the way, has shown its flip side today. The conservatives [in Poland] are trying to deprive women of the right to abortion, the right is in power, and the system is clearly distant from what the trade unionists fought for back in the day against the regime and the bureaucracy. But when we see how the priests in Minsk have been supporting the protesters, hiding them from the riot police in churches, this is what we want to sing.

Well, and then there are the workers who came to the forefront of the political struggle in Belarus at some point: that’s another great story, of course, and, I hope, it’s a story that hasn’t ended. Without the workers, a revolution is doomed: new elites seize power and continue to exploit people under new slogans.

We saw how our friends from the leftist party A Just World were bullied and imprisoned: two years ago, we recorded our version of the famous Chilean anthem “Venceremos” in Belarusian (“Peramozham”) for them. Masha Shakuro, who is from the Minsk group Boston Tea Party and, simultaneously, the captain of the Belarusian national rugby team, spent two weeks in prison. Two years ago, she and her band to Moscow for our festival Punk Against Electroshock Torture.

We were involved in PartiZan Fest, which, due to the pressure the authorities put on the clubs, could not be held live. Consequently, the festival was broadcast on TV Rain, and they managed to raise $30,000 for victims of the crackdown in Belarus.

In parallel, we have been recording with European musicians. The Partisan Album features anti-fascist songs from the Second World War, which, of course, included the Belarusian “Forest Song” (“Birches and Pines”), as well as our version of “Bella Ciao,” which contains a reference to the Belarusian partisans. Then there are two completely new tracks that you will hear in this anthology: “Jewish Song” by Hirsch Glick, a poet of the Vilna Ghetto, and the experimental composition “Counterattack,” set to a poem by the Warsaw Ghetto poet Władysław Szlengel, who died during the Uprising. The video for “Counterattack” was made by the Belarusian artist and historian Aliaksandra Osipova, who is from Pinsk. Although she realized that she was taking a risk, Aliaksandra agreed to direct a short film for this track. “The main idea was to combine the moving masses of color and the masses of people, to show the tension between the universality of the struggle and the concreteness of the gestures of resistance and defiance,” she says.

It is interesting how at such moments non-obvious connections and identities are actualized, and it turns out that you have many friends with Belarusian roots. Guys from the diaspora have given us “honorary Belarusians” certificates. I sing in Belarusian as a sign of anti-imperial solidarity, while Kirill Medvedev recalls his great-grandfather Semyon Ilyushenko from near Vitebsk, who fought in the Red Army under Frunze, and then created Soviet jet fuel in a sharashka.

In this covid year, it is as if the old map of Europe has been redrawn for us. New lines are emerging, Soviet and non-Soviet roots are connecting into something new, into a future for which we will still have to fight, and not only with songs.

Speaking of fascism. The other day, our bandmate Oleg Zhuravlev, a sociologist and co-founder of Arkady Kots, was brutally beaten and robbed by the cops in Petersburg, after which he was kept out in the cold all night in a cage with the window wide open. And yesterday exactly the same thing happened to the Petersburg historian Pavel Demchenko, in the very same 28th police precinct on Marat Street [in downtown Petersburg]. Now the guys are combining their cases, and communicating with lawyers to make as big a dent as possible in police lawlessness. The Russian police have recently been rapidly rushing down the road to hell, trying to compete with Lukashenko’s police, apparently.

In the meantime, I want to congratulate everyone on the passing year, a year of many terrible deaths, extreme violence and heroism. I hope the future will be peaceful and beautiful. Listen to The Belarusian Collection!

Translated by the Russian Reader. Image (below) courtesy of the Arkady Kots Bandcamp page

Partyzanski Praspekt, “August”

partyzanski praspekt-logo

On Sunday, December 6, 2020, the Belarusian poet and performer Uladzimir Liankevič was detained on his way home from his band’s rehearsal. The next day, he was sentenced to 15 days in jail. 23.34 and 23.4 are the two articles of the criminal code under which he was convicted by the court or, rather, by its grotesque totalitarian parody. Belarusians know all too well what these numbers mean: “violating the procedure for organizing or holding mass events” and “disobeying a law enforcement officer.”

Liankevič was previously detained in September, spending six days in the Zhodzina Temporary Detention Facility.

Released on November 14, 2020, the recent song by Liankevič’s band Partyzanski Praspekt bears the anachronistic title “August.” Why would they sing about August in November?

This is the explanation that the band wrote on its Facebook page, alluding to the state terror that erupted in Belarus following the failed presidential election of August 9, 2020:

Everything that is happening in our midst cannot fail to move us. So we wrote a new song titled “August.” We wanted the events of that month to stay there, but they, unfortunately, have continued.

The song depicts the parallel lives of two modern Belarusian revolutionaries, whose civic awakening takes place after the government deployed tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets, and stun grenades against the peaceful protesters.

The lyrics contain the following local references:

  1. Minsk toponyms that have symbolic significance in the geography of protest: the Stela or Minsk Hero City Obelisk, Nyamiha Street, and Masherau Avenue.
  2. Two of the country’s most infamous detention facilities, Okrestina and Zhodzina.
  3. The minivans used by the riot police as transportation.
  4. “Blue fingers”: a meme alluding to the dictator Alexander Lukashenko’s quip that he would not keep his grip on power until his fingers turned blue.
  5. The letter at the end of the video is addressed to “TsIP,” the “offender isolation center” (literally) or “temporary detention facility.”

Жнівень

Здымная хата
На апошняй станцыi метро
Чарговая праца
На якой ен для начальнiка нiхто
Ен цярпеў i нават не марыў
Адарваць чужыя пальцы сiнiя ад шыi
Ды спачатку голас скралi
А потым прабудзiлi
Светлашумавы

Лiчы што не жыў
Лiчы што не жыў
Да гэтага жнiўня

Калi прагучалi
Першыя стрэлы
Ты мог яго бачыць на Стэле
Калi прыпынiлiся бусы паблiзу
Ен быў разам з табой на Нямiзе
Ты дома сядзеў духам упаўшы
Ен iшоў за цябе
Па Машэрава
Маршам

Газ вадаметы на суткi за краты
Ягоныя вочы найлепшы з плакатаў
З яго галавы волас ня ўпала
Анiводзiна
Аднак ен быў сiнi весь
Як выходзiў з Жодзiна
Сцяна сцяна
Дзверы
Насупраць сцяна
Гэта сведкi таго
Што з iм было на Акрэсцiна

Яна паступiла
У сталiчны унiвер
За некалькi курсаў
Да гнiлой сiстэмы страцiла давер
Знiкла прага да жыцця
Знiклi мары
Маркота раз’ядала да той самай суботы

Яе спачатку ўразiлi людзi
А потым прабудзiлi
Газ i вадаметы

Не хацелася жыць
Не хацелася жыць
Да гэтага жнiўня

Калi прагучалi
Першыя стрэлы
Ты мог яе бачыць на Стэле
Калi прыпынiлiся бусы паблiзу
Яна была разам з табой на Нямiзе
Ты дома сядзеў духам упаушы
Яна шла за табой па Машэрава маршам

Газ вадаметы на суткi за краты
Ейныя вочы найлепшы з плакатаў
З яе галавы волас ня ўпала
Анiводзiна
Аднак яна сiняя ўся
Выходзiла з Жодзiна
Сцяна сцяна дзверы
Насупраць сцяна
Гэта сведкi таго
што з ей было на Акрэсцiнa

August

A rented apartment
At the last metro station
Another job
Where he means nothing to his boss
He put up with it and did not even dream
Of tearing someone’s blue fingers from his neck
But first his vote was stolen
And then the stun grenades awoke him

Consider that he didn’t live
Consider that he didn’t live
Until this August

But when the first shots were fired
You could see him at the Stela
When the minivans parked nearby
He was with you on Nyamiha
Crestfallen, you stayed at home
But he marched for you
Down Masherau Avenue

Tear gas and water cannons
They threw him behind bars
His eyes are the best protest art
Not a single hair fell from his head
Not a single one
However, he was all blue
That’s how he left his jail cell in Zhodzina
A wall a wall a door
And another wall opposite
These witnessed
What happened to him
On Okrestina

She enrolled in a Minsk university
During the first years
She lost her faith in a rotten system
Her desire to live was gone
And her dreams were gone
The depression held her until that Saturday

At first, she was surprised by her people
And then the tear gas and water cannons
woke her up

She didn’t want to live
She didn’t want to live
Until this August

But when the first shots were fired
You could see her at the Stela
When the minivans parked nearby
She was with you on Nyamiha
Crestfallen, you stayed at home
But she marched for you
Down Masherau Avenue

Tea gas and water cannons
They threw her behind bars
Her eyes are the best protest art
Not a single hair fell from her head
Not a single one
However, she was all blue
That’s how she left her jail cell in Zhodzina
A wall a wall a door
And another wall opposite
These witnessed
What happened to her
On Okrestina

Introduction, commentary and translation from the Belarusian by Sasha Razor

Autazak

Several years ago, the autazak—the vehicle that the police use to transport detainees—became a paradoxical symbol of Belarusian art protest culture.

Autazak, by the art collective Hutka Smachnaa, published November 17, 2016

“Autazak,” a song by the band Partyzanski Praspekt (Guerrilla Avenue) that was written in Belarusian and recorded on the eve of the August 9, 2020, presidential election, continues this trend.

Partyzanski Praspekt consists of two people: its frontman, poet Uladzimir Liankievič and guitarist Raman Zharabcou. By August 2020, both men already had firsthand experience riding inside these vehicles and being detained overnight by the police.

“I used to write more metaphorical texts that were often contemplative,” says Liankevič, “but now the time has come for straightforward and clear messages. Raman and I chose the garage-rock form and recorded the song very quickly.”

Zhabracou was arrested a few days after the song’s release. Liankevič was arrested on September 8 during a march in support of opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova, who had been abducted a day earlier. Liankevič spent six days in the Zhodino Temporary Detention Facility and was released on September 14, 2020.

On September 16, Liankevič wrote the following on his Facebook page:

Basically, what happened is that I was illegally detained and convicted, not as a musician, writer, TV presenter, showman, leader,  activist, journalist, activist, philosopher, Instagram influencer, champion athlete, generalist, or something else very important, not for my activities or my inaction, but as a mere citizen. More precisely, I was detained and tried as if I were not a citizen, but as a person without status. (Although, generally speaking, I lucked out). Today, people are taking to the streets, flying flags, and singing “Kupalinka” in the name of ordinary civil rights and even universal human rights.

At such moments, I simply do not care about any of my identities, except for one—my identity as a human being.

Co-ed, programmer, resident of stairwell no. 4, chemist, surgeon, poetess, friend, enemy, female passenger, pedestrian, random drunk, Israeli national, geologist, cyclist, demobbed soldier, vocational college student, unregistered person, cap wearer, bag toter, backpack schlepper, female opera employee, flower holder, posterless, professor, minor, disabled person, birthday girl, hot-tempered lout, post-surgical recoverer, deceiver, handsome man, deadbeat, ex,  show-off, foolish woman, smart-ass, intellectual, believer, classmate, talented lady, goofball, long-haired hippie, childless man, prostitute, drug addict, and freeloader, what is it that you want?

To be called people.

Аўтазак

Па горадзе гойсаюць банды ў цывільным,
Твары схаваныя, позірк звярыны.
Пакуюць карціны, пакуюць людзей –
Няправільна стаў, не так паглядзеў.
Душаць, загадваюць, рукі ламаюць.
Час разагнаць незаконную зграю!

Краіну спакавалі ў аўтазак,
Яны за гэта мусяць адказаць.

Мы сёння разам, і нішто не спыніць гэтай хвалі.
Мы вернем тое, што ў нас забралі.
Пасля дажджу гуляюць промні па небакраі,
Мы вернем тое, што ў нас забралі.

Крадуць галасы без сораму, стабільна
Чыняць беззаконне, судзяць нявінных.
Ганяць, прыніжаюць, хлусяць кожны дзень.
З суддзямі таксама сустрэнемся ў судзе.
Святкуюць перамогу занадта рана –
Ніхто не застанецца беспакараным.

Краіну спакавалі ў аўтазак,
Яны за гэта мусяць адказаць.

Мы сёння разам, і нішто не спыніць гэтай хвалі.
Мы вернем тое, што ў нас забралі.
Пасля дажджу гуляюць промні па небакраі,
Мы вернем тое, што ў нас забралі.

Autazak

Gangs in plainclothes roam the city,
Their faces hidden, their eyes like beasts.
They pack away pictures, they pack away people:
You stood the wrong, you gave the wrong look.
They choke us, shout orders, twist our arms.
It’s time to drive away this lawless herd!

The country has been packed into an autazak.
They must answer for this.

We are together today, and nothing will stop this wave.
We will get back what was taken from us.
After the rain, rays shine across the sky
We will get back what was taken from us.

They steal our voices, our votes without shame,
They violate the laws, they persecute the innocent.
They chase us, humiliate us, and lie every day.
Our judges will also face us in court.
It is still too early to celebrate:
No one will escape unpunished.

The country has been packed into an autazak.
They must answer for this.

We are together today, and nothing will stop this wave.
We will get back what was taken from us.
After the rain, rays shine across the sky
We will get back what was taken from us.

Introduction, commentary and translation from the Belarusian by Sasha Razor

Swine (Remembering Andrei Panov, the Soviet Union’s First Punk Rocker)

svin-1

“I Don’t Think Punk Rock Is Very Viable”: Andrei “Swine” Panov’s Widow Talks to Us About Him and the Soviet Underground
Ona Razvalilas (It Fell Apart)
Sergei Vilkov
April 1, 2020

A week ago Andrei “Swine” Panov, the now deceased founder of the first Soviet punk rock group, Automatic Satisfiers (AS), would have celebrated his 60th birthday. In an interview, his widow, Olga Korol-Borodyuk, talked to our community page about how Soviet youth of the late 1970s managed to move in sync with the second wave of British punk; what ideology Swine and his crowd professed; what he thought of the political events of the Yeltsin era; Panov’s image in the movie Leto; how the current troubled times differ from the troubled times back then, and much more.

What kind of person would he be now, if he’d lived this long? I didn’t want to touch on this topic because I can’t say anything good. I think it would have been very hard for him to survive. When he left us he was 38 years old; what his health would be like now, 22 years later, is unknown, you understand. When everything commercial is totally alien to a person . . . It’s really difficult to live, to survive in Russia nowadays, even in comparison with those years that were so . . . precarious. Incomprehensible, troubled years. It’s become 100 times worse now. So, I can’t even imagine what he would have been like in this situation. Holding those same noncommercial punk festivals without money would be impossible.

To me personally it’s a great shame that Andrei couldn’t realize himself as an actor. Because in that capacity he was astonishing, profound. His origins as an actor were the main thing about him. Back in the day, he had left the theatrical world: he didn’t want to play Communist Youth League members. Well, it’s also unclear how it  would have played out in the Soviet period. It all somehow fell by the wayside.

On his attitude towards politics: the events of 1993, Yeltsin, the  war in Chechnya
I’m probably going to deeply disappoint you: Andrei tried as much as possible to separate himself from [politics], because he had had very negative experiences in his life. In the first place, there was his father, who went abroad permanently. (Panov’s father, a well-known ballet choreographer, abandoned his family and emigrated to Israel when his son was 14 — editor’s note.) In the Soviet period, that caused particular complications in one’s life: you were the “son of a traitor,” as it were. Then, you see, the word “punk” itself means “anti-social.” The punk denies his own social affiliations, he cannot take an interest in politics in principle. [Andrei’s] attitude towards [the Soviet Union] was of course negative, but he never went into it and didn’t discuss it.

svin-2

How it was possible to play punk rock in the USSR in the late 70s
It’s very simple. At that time there was a whole cohort of music lovers who practically lived on the musical “can.” They bought records and hung out with each other. Basically, new records got to the Soviet Union rather quickly. There are at least four versions of our crowd first heard about the Sex Pistols: all of those stories are credible but different.  The main thing is that Andrei found out about the Sex Pistols practically right away. Meaning that in 1976 the Sex Pistols album came out. [Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols actually came out in 1977 — TRR], and AS was formed in 1978. There was a crowd led by [Yevgeny] Yufit (one of the founders of Soviet “parallel cinema” — editor’s note). It included Andrei, Khua, [Alexei] Rybin [co-founder of Kino], and [Viktor] Tsoi. They fooled around, ran around the garbage dumps. Basically, they were having fun. Then they started shooting their escapades, first with photo cameras, later on video. This was where Yufit got his genre [necrorealism] and how Andrei formed AS. At first, it was all a lot of fun. But there’s nothing surprising about this: information was getting to us very quickly.

Was Panov a punk?
Andrei never called himself a punk at all. He very much disliked it when he was called that: he considered it a label. They called themselves “anarchists.” They denounced the established order. Another very telling point is that this crowd had this thing. You know the song “Commissar”? (Also known by such titles as “A Bullet Whizzed Past,” “My Steed is Black,” and others, the song is mistakenly thought to be a 20th-century Cossack folk song — editor’s note). The song has been attributed to any number of people. In point of fact, the song’s lyricist,  Misha “Hefty” [Tinkelman], is alive and well. We’re friends. He lives in Petersburg. He’s just a humble person and doesn’t want to get mixed up in this story and that’s it. And it was like this: when they were at school, they had this crowd who amused themselves by making up songs à la the White Guards.

Since it was the Soviet period, this was the form their internal protest, or hooliganism, took. They liked that kind of aesthetic, and so on. “Commissar” is one of those songs. The aesthetic was White Guard-anarchist, at the level of denying the Soviet system. Is it really possible to compare this with the way Sid Vicious wore a swastika for the shock value?  I don’t think it’s worth comparing them: all these stories are completely different. I wouldn’t draw any parallels at all.

They were schoolboys, and theirs was a very romantic generation. But the romanticism was expressed idiosyncratically, and it included White Guard lore. All of the people from this crowd who are still alive are still the same hopeless romantics. There’s nothing like them nowadays: people are very cynical and pragmatic.

How they met
We met at LenFilm studios in around 1985. They were filming Burglar (in which Leningrad rock stars Konstantin Kinchev and Oleg Garkusha also acted; Panov himself appears in one scene — editor’s note). A group of punks was hired as floor hands on the set: Alexander “Ricochet” Aksyonov, Yuri “Scandal” Katsyuk, Andrei “Willie” Usov. Alexei Rybin was also among them: his wife worked there officially. I’d been working there since 1983 in the costume shop. We had such a cheerful Komsomol committee, headed by Masha Solovtsova. Later, she also had a group, 88 Air Kisses, but unfortunately, Masha’s no longer with us. She would simply take the keys to the snack bar, and in the evenings we would go there, lock ourselves in, and hold improvised concerts. Andrei was still playing the guitar then, and he would be squatting down on his haunches with the other musicians in the middle of the room. And he still smoked then. Basically, the young people at the studio were very progressive and very tight-knit.

Andrei was a person who thought in his own utterly particular way, who hungered for knowledge, who read an awful lot.  He had a good knowledge of history, including art history. He had his own brand of logic, which couldn’t be simplified. I remember him being asked whether it was true that he’d begun to play as soon as he heard Iggy Pop. He only laughed in reply. He was a very complicated figure psychologically.

On the character “Punk” in the movie Leto
It’s a confusing story: the screenplay was rewritten numerous times. I know this well, because I’m friends with the guys from Zoo (Mike Naumenko’s group – editor’s note). At one point, a girl from the film crew called me to ask whether I could find an actor who outwardly resembled Andrei. I expressed the opinion that playing Swine was madness: there was no way to make a copy of him. I proposed that instead we proceed from a prototype, keeping the concrete person somewhere in the back of our minds. Thus arose the character by the name “Punk,” who was conceived with Andrei in mind, of course. The most interesting thing is that he was the most authentic character in the whole movie. [Alexander] Gorchilin, who played him, was able to capture exactly that childlike quality, the purity of a harmless fifth-grade delinquent. That was the essential thing about Andrei. Even his mother, Liya Petrovna, admitted that he was really quite similar.

svin-3

On punk rock in our time
For 22 years I’ve been organizing a festival in memory of Andrei. This year I’m doing it for the last time. You have to pay for everything, and I do it at my own expense. I’m a one-woman organizing committee. And so very little remains of the audience for whose sake I do it. More and more people drop in just like that, because it’s a freebie: entry is free, and they’re simply random people. In 2004, when I did it at Port [a music club in Petersburg], which is rather large, the place was packed: I gave out only 800 free passes. But now I can hardly herd them in. Many folks have died. There are ever fewer people to whom it matters, people whom I know by sight. And none of the musicians are left: everyone’s died. Its time has probably passed. I don’t think that punk rock is very viable.  Each musical genre has its own audience, but there’s just no mass audience [for punk rock in Russia]; There was Korol i Shut, but that’s not punk rock at all. It was called punk, yes, but that’s another story. Andrei’s punk is pure punk, it’s not for the mass market.

All photos courtesy of Ona Razvalilas. Translated by Mary Rees

Andrei “Swine” Panov and Automatic Satisfiers play “Cucumber Lotion” live on Channel 2’s “Programma A” in 1992

Anna Tereshkina: Earth Digger

Anna Tereshkina has always epitomized, for me, the radical core of the Petersburg underground. Especially since she comes from Omsk, in Siberia. If Chernyshevsky were writing the novel of our times, Tereshkina would be Vera Pavlovna and Rakhmetov all at once.

tereshkina-photo (anastasia makarenko)Anna Tereshkina. Photo by Anastasia Makarenko. Courtesy of Ms. Tereshkina’s Facebook page

Tereshkina is an incredibly prolific artist, curator, musician, and poet. She is dedicated to universal justice and solidarity and is particularly attuned to the aesthetic and political performative discourses of queer-feminism. Her work and, most importantly, her life as a work (of art and politics) have been among the most formative for me in terms of opening up to my own queer body and writing.

Among Tereshkina’s most important projects are:

The first translation is from Tereshkina’s incredible recent collection in the online journal F-Writing. The second is one of Red Dawns’ songs.

_________________________________

relaxation as the result of many days of effort.
many years of effort.
I come here, into the world of feminine bodies
to erase my sex,
to look at them carefully,
so calm,
escaping for a couple hours
children, husbands, grandsons, debts,
poverty and bosses,
patience and despair.
into the kingdom of heat and silence.
everyone is silent, they just breathe like stoves.*
and I need to breathe this way, too.
today I showed a new woman the ladle and mitt, so she could give us more steam.
she said: “toss more,” and I didn’t understand.**
then I thought about the division of language and feelings:
you can pick over them like grains
or you can share them with someone.
or eat your kasha with black dots,
if you like dots, in particular black ones.***
there’s a strong woman washing her old mother,
after the steam room she tells her: sit here a bit.
will I ever wash my mother?
mine never goes to the banya alone.
and then I hear, hear, hear everything
breath and motion, breath and motion
the electric current pulls the water pumps
and the water runs off into the drain.
I want to be huge like a stove,
so no one can put me in their pocket.

* The poem describes a scene in a Russian public bathhouse or banya on a women’s day. The banya is heated by a large brick stove or pech.

** These lines contrast two infinitives, describing the act of throwing water on the stones in the stove to produce steam. On the one hand, poddavat (to add or increase the steam, with the root meaning “to give”), and on the other hand, podkinut (to toss or throw the steam). Tereshkina told me she had never heard this usage of the second verb before the scene described.

*** The reference is to the black grains that can often be found in a bag of buckwheat kasha. They can be separated out before cooking or simply eaten along with the rest.

tereshkina-self portraitAnna Tereshkina, Self-Portrait. Courtesy of the artist

https://krasnyezori.bandcamp.com/track/shrew

Mama, I want a tattoo,
Mama, I’m embarrassed before you
Like usual, because I was born,
And forced to steal your youth.
It was so scary in the 1990s,
no scarier than now, lying down
looking back, looking forward,
We don’t know which of us
Lies the most to the other
We don’t know which of us
Lies the most to themselves.

I like being a girl,
but it’s better to be a zemleroika,
Anyone born in perestroika,
Remains forever there.
I like being a girl,
who has such little air
underwater, everything squeezing me,
and no one waiting up above
It’s already too late.

Mama, I want to get my nose pierced,
so everyone can see I’m grown up
and I can pierce everything I want, if I want.
Mama, can I come back
into your matrix, peek in with one eye,
so I can rest,
so I don’t have to breathe,
so I can run away.
Is it shameful to dream of such things?

I like being a girl,
but it’s better to be a zemleroika,
Whoever was born in perestroika,
Remains forever there.
I like being a girl
who has such little air
underwater, everything squeezing me,
and no one waiting up above
It’s already too late.

* The Russian for “shrew” is zemleroika, which literally means “earth digger,” recalling Hegel’s appropriation of Hamlet’s “old mole” to name the spirit of history. Since “shrew” has such misogynistic connotations in English (and none in Russian), I have left the original word in the translation. Please learn this word (rhymes with perestroika!) and use it in English to replace the dead word “shrew” if you are speaking of a tough, assertive woman.

Translation and commentary by Joan Brooks. If you would like to support the author’s work, please consider donating. Any amount helps. Please include “Tereshkina” in the memo line of your contribution.

Donate Button

Down the Streets the Trams Were Rolling

Ivan Burkov, “Saint Petersburg: Ligovsky Prospekt from the Cab of a Tram,” August 27, 2016. (Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up.)

Nol, “Down the Streets the Trams Were Rolling”

Early in the month of May one spring
Rumbling, screeching, dusty godsends
Down the streets the trams were rolling
They were going off to die
Down the streets the trams were rolling
They were going off to die

But up ahead the rumbling cars were racing
The cars were smelly, the cars were filthy
And the trees they cried and sobbed
While, spitting shit, the tires whispered

And the trees they cried and sobbed
While, spitting shit, the tires whispered

Such, my friends, was the whim of nature
Everyone had to run to work on foot
Down the streets the trams were rolling
They were going off to die
Down the streets the trams were rolling
Heading down to the depot to die

Fyodor Chistyakov and Nol performing “Trams” in 1992

Mike Naumenko, “Summer (A Song for Tsoi)”

 


Mike Naumenko, “Summer (A Song for Tsoi)” (1982)

Summer!
I’m sizzled like a burger.
I got time, but no money,
But I don’t care.

Summer!
I bought myself a paper.
I got a paper, but no beer.
And I’m going to look for one.

Summer!
There’s a jam session today at the Lensovet.
There will be this, and there will be that.
Should I go there?

Summer!
All the rowdies wear brass knuckles,
They must have a vendetta.
However, this is rubbish. Yes, yes, yes!

Summer!
There is no escape from mosquitoes,
And in the stores there is no DEET.
We hold donors in high esteem.

Summer!
It will be the death of me.
Quick, my carriage, my carriage!
However, kvass will also do.

Summer!
My pants are worn shiny like a coin.
A cigarette is smoking in my mouth.
I’m going for a swim in the pond.

Summer!
Recently I heard somewhere
That a comet was coming
And that then we would all die, all die.

Source of original lyrics in Russian. “Summer” was released on the album Mike: LV (1982),  which you can enjoy in its entirety for free on Spotify. The video, above, features photographs by the great Petersburg underground photographer Boris Smelov. Photo and translation by the Russian Reader

fullsizeoutput_17a4

Mama Anarchy

 

Kino, “Mother Anarchy”

A soldier was walking home down the street and saw these guys.
“Who’s your mama, guys?” the soldier asked the guys.

Refrain
Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.
Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.

portvein

The once-ubiquitous Port 777 should not be confused with its distant Portuguese cousin. In quality and flavor, it bears more of a resemblance to Mad Dog 20/20.

All of them wore leather jackets, all of them were small,
The soldier wanted to walk on by, but it wasn’t easy.

Refrain
Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.
Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.

Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.
Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.

The boys played quite a fun joke on the soldier.
They painted him red and blue, and forced him to use foul language.

Refrain
Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.
Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.
Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.
Mama is anarchy, papa’s a glass of port wine.

Original lyrics courtesy of gl5.ru. Image courtesy of Soviet Visuals. Translated by the Russian Reader

Pornofilmy, “This Will Pass”

After a hearing in the so-called Network trial in Petersburg this past Thursday, supporters of Russian political prisoners Viktor Filinkov and Yuli Boyarshinov chanted the lyrics of the song “This Will Pass,” by Russian rock group Pornofilmy, as the young men were led out of the courthouse and put in a paddy wagon for transport back to the remand prison where they have been jailed for the last two years. Since the song mentions the Network Case defendants and their torture at the hands of the FSB, and contains a brief but telling catalogue of the current Russian regime’s crimes, I made this hyperlink-annotated translation of the lyrics for you.

Pornofilmy: This Will Pass

Аll of it will pass, like thunderstorms in May
Someone’s tears, a V sign on the mouth
Like a United Russia MP’s mandate
Like an interrogation, like a cop’s sneer
Like the corridors at Lefortovo Prison
Like Beslan, like the poison gas at Nord-Ost
Like the federal pack of soulless majors
Sevastopol, Donetsk and Luhansk
This will definitely pass . . .

This will definitely pass!
A wet plastic bag on its head
Electric shock marks on its hands
My Russia is behind bars
But trust me
It will pass!
What black times we live in
But in the distance I seem to see
The forgotten light of living hope, so trust me
This will definitely pass

Like the swastika of the Russian world
Like the fires in Siberia’s forests
Prison sentences for honest guys from Penza and Petersburg
Paddy wagons packed with children
Or the lying scum on the telly
Article 228 and shakedowns at five in the morning
Like riot crops bravely maiming women
Like December, January and February
This will definitely pass…

putin enemy of people“Putin is an enemy of the people.” March 1, 2020, Petersburg. Photo by and courtesy of VA

This will definitely pass!
A wet plastic bag on its head
Electric shock marks on its hands
My Russia is behind bars
But trust me
It will pass!
What black times we live in
But in the distance I seem to see
The forgotten light of living hope, so trust me
This will definitely pass

All of it will pass, everything passes sometime
In a year, in a day, in an instant
Yesterday’s dictator will lie alone in the morgue
Now just a dead old man
And the doors at Lefortovo will be cut from their hinges
And Russia will rise from its slumber
Like the battered and blown-up Malaysian airplane
Spring will burst into your icy hut

This will definitely pass!
A wet plastic bag on its head
Electric shock marks on its hands
My Russia is behind bars
But trust me
It will pass!
What black times we live in
But in the distance I seem to see
The forgotten light of living hope, so trust me
This will definitely pass

Translated by the Russian Reader