Young Russian Musicians Struggle Under Government Scrutiny A new generation of Russians born after the collapse of the Soviet Union is coming of age and rebelling against the rules of the Putin regime through music.
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Young Russian Musicians Struggle Under Government Scrutiny

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Young Russian Musicians Struggle Under Government Scrutiny

Young Russian Musicians Struggle Under Government Scrutiny

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Back in the days of the Soviet Union, the government tried to control everything from the way young people dressed to the kind of music they listened to. Well, now a generation is coming of age that was born after the collapse of the communist system. And young Russians are rebelling against the rules and regulations of the Putin regime through rap music. Here's NPR's Lucian Kim from Moscow.

LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: At the end of November, Dmitry Kuznetsov, a 25-year-old rapper known as Husky, made headlines when authorities stopped him from performing in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Rapping in Russian).

KIM: Husky jumped onto a parked car outside the club and started rapping with fans before being hauled off by policemen. In his latest track, "Poem About The Motherland" (ph), he raps about the hardships in his gritty hometown in eastern Siberia.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A POEM ABOUT THE MOTHERLAND")

HUSKY: (Rapping in Russian).

KIM: Husky's arrest set off a wave of protests by Russian musicians. But it also sparked even more concert bans across the country. The electronic music duo IC3PEAK, who jokingly call their work audiovisual terror, were detained by police at the Novosibirsk train station, causing them to miss a scheduled gig. Their troubles began after they posted a macabre video on YouTube called "Death No More."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DEATH NO MORE")

IC3PEAK: (Singing in Russian).

KIM: In the video, lead singer Anastasiya Kreslina describes setting herself on fire in front of the Russian government building and sings that her blood is purer than the purest drugs.

ANASTASIYA KRESLINA: (Through interpreter) It's a descriptive video. We're not revealing anything new in it. We're just saying out loud the things that people would like to say but are afraid to. We're describing the state of mind of a person of our generation, who really has nothing to look forward to and can't expect any changes.

KIM: Kreslina and her partner Nikolai Kostylev are both in their mid 20s. Kostylev says that young people who may not have cared about politics before are now paying attention because their music is being targeted. And what connects young people everywhere, he says, is the Internet.

NIKOLAI KOSTYLEV: (Through interpreter) Everyone watches Youtube, listens to the same American rappers and follows the same TV shows. We have a lot in common with people our age around the world. I'm more like some guy my age in Mexico than my neighbor who's two generations older.

KIM: Kostylev might as well be speaking about President Putin, who's 66 years old. The uproar over the banned concerts was so loud, it even reached Putin's attention during a meeting with cultural figures.

KOSTYLEV: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: "Putin said rap rests on three pillars - sex, drugs and protest." He said simply banning concerts would be counterproductive but added that the government's job is to lead and guide youth culture. It wasn't long before a video appeared on YouTube sampling Putin's words into a rap of its own.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Rapping in Russian).

KIM: Sociologist Yelena Omelchenko says young people in Russia's large cities are already culturally oriented toward Western Europe and follow global trends.

YELENA OMELCHENKO: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: Omelchenko says communication between the government and young people has broken down because they live in two parallel worlds. She says the authorities are still molded by the Soviet impulse to regulate but that their attempts are bound to fail since Russia's youth culture is diverse and very hard to control. Nikolai Kostylev of the group IC3PEAK can confirm that.

KOSTYLEV: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: He says even though half the concerts were cancelled on their last tour, they returned home with new inspiration. Their fans, he says, really want to make a change for the better in Russia. Lucian Kim, NPR News, Moscow.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A POEM ABOUT THE MOTHERLAND")

HUSKY: (Rapping in Russian).

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