July 27, 2004

Blatnye pesni...

Perry de Havilland at Samizdata linked to a fascinating site of pictures of abandoned buildings and projects in Russia, abandoned.ru. Cool wierd stuff.

I might not have followed the link if Alan had not blogged recently about other things interesting at .ru addresses. I was inspired to go back and actually follow his links, and found this, about the "Russian bard scene."

...It started in the late 50's, after survivors from Northern and Siberian camps started to trickle back to populated parts of the country. Very few of them could write like Solzhenitsyn or Varlaam Shalamov, but many more could sing prison songs. The so-called blatnye pesni were written by career criminals, and songs based on the experience of the camps were written by political prisoners, but in form resembled the former (sometimes even using the same melody).

Society's attitudes towards prisoners changed during the "Thaw" years of the 1960’s. Political "ZK" (inmates), who were previously considered "the enemies of the People," became human again. Suddenly Pushkin's line about "mercy to the fallen" was quoted in Pravda; public debates about "physicists vs. lyricists" filled the arenas with audiences. And the first shy voices of social and political dissent started to appear semi-publicly.

Vysotsky started with songs imitating blatnye pesni, and soon became the best-known Russian bard. (Here's a page about him. See also the excellent Sasha Voloch article here.)...

Posted by John Weidner at July 27, 2004 10:11 AM
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