Leningrad Rock Club

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The building today

The Leningrad Rock Club (Russian: Ленинградский рок-клуб) was a historic music venue of the 1980s in Leningrad, situated on Rubinstein Street in the city center. Opened in 1981 and overseen by the KGB, it became the first legal rock music venue in Leningrad. Overall, it was the largest rock scene in the Soviet Union, which featured such bands as Kino, Alisa, Aquarium, Zoopark, Piknik, Automatic Satisfiers, DDT, NEP, Grazhdanskaya Oborona (formally[1]), and became an important influence on the Russian rock music.

History[edit]

Leningrad had long been a center of rock music in the Soviet Union, perhaps due to its geographical proximity with Finland, which made it easier to access Western music.[2] Attempts to create rock clubs began as early as 1973, but they were largely unsuccessful.[3]

The Leningrad Rock Club formed in 1981 under Leonid Brezhnev.[4] It was intended to be organized similarly to the Union of Soviet Composers and censored lyrics and issued permits to perform in an effort to prevent the bands from making much that was too controversial.[5] However, by providing musicians with a place to meet, perform, and discuss their music, the club provided an unprecedented amount of creative freedom and helped lead to the Russian rock revolution.[6] The club effectively closed in 1991.[7]

There were restrictions on which bands could perform at the club for most of its history, and groups had to audition before a commission.[8] Additionally, the club was monitored by the KGB, the Communist party, and the Komsomol Communist Youth Organization. More radical bands, such as the highly political Televizor and punk singer Svinya, were banned from the club. However, these restrictions lessoned in 1987 under Mikhail Gorbachev.[9]

Influence[edit]

The Leningrad Rock Club provided access to a new, Western form of music for an audience of unprecedented size in the Soviet Union. It led to an emergence of a rock industry in the Soviet Union. Its performers began to tour, perform on television, and have their songs played on the radio.[10] This was part of a growing prominence of Western culture in the Soviet Union.[11]

However, some musicians disliked the mainstream fame and acceptance the Leningrad Rock Club brought them. "We are so official now, so taken to heart, that the people who were with us before are not sure of us," Boris Grebenshchikov of Aquarium said in an interview with the New York Times. "Nobody can believe that the system has changed. They think we must have changed."[12] The Leningrad Rock Club was viewed by some artists as a sign of compliance with the Soviet government.[13]

Coordinates: 59°55′47″N 30°20′38″E / 59.9296°N 30.3438°E / 59.9296; 30.3438

References[edit]