Soviet-era anti-establishment band ОТДЕЛ САМОИСКОРЕНЕНИЯ (Department of Self-Eradication) played their first show ever this summer. Here is a report from by MRR contributor Alexander Herbert.
When I told a group of modern punk rockers that I was headed to St. Petersburg to see the first show of OTDEL SAMOISKORENENIA (OS), they all looked at me as if my accent was pronouncing something incomprehensible. OS formed in 1982 before Gorbachev introduced Pepsi, McDonald’s and other symbols of Western modernity (or mediocrity) to the country. In fact, ’82 caught the tail end of Brezhnev’s years, in which censorship and anti-Western bullshit was reinforced by Yuri Andropov’s love affair with state discipline and propaganda. With lyrics as straightforward as “Reagan and Andropov fucked all of Europe from both sides,” OS fell victim to that censorship in 1984. KGB agents seized, interrogated and threatened front man Fedor “Feddy Begemont” Lavrov before the band ever had a chance to set foot on a stage.
But in 2014 they managed to book their first show, in a symbolic club called “Kamchatka,” located across the Neva River in St. Petersburg. When the band formed in 1982, Kamchatka was a boiler room in which Russia’s most famous frontman, and friend of OS, Viktor Tsoi worked and practiced with his entourage, KINO. The walls inside the venue are lined with portraits and busts of Tsoi and punk ledgend Yegor Letov from GRAZHDANSKAYA OBORONA (Civil Defense), who are commonly thought of as the USSR’s first major punk rockers. The historic occasion, coupled with the venue attracted punks both young and old who wanted to recreate the atmosphere of Leningrad’s early punk scene.
I was born in the USSR / And I am aware of the country I have to live in / Values are renewed but the system is the same / And it’s against the self-governing of citizens.
—Feddy Lavrov, OS
With former members of AVTOMATICHESKI UDOVLETVORITELI (AU), NARODNOE OPULCHENIE (NO) and more, the OS lineup was a powerhouse of Soviet punk rock veterans. They played a number of songs that spanned the subgenres of punk rock — ’77, pop punk, hardcore, and politically charged songs loaded with lyrics that recant the unique psychological struggles weighing down on the Soviet Union’s disenfranchised youth. They opened the gig with their theme song, literally translated to “Department of Self-Eradication,” which became a repeating montage throughout the set, reinforcing the point of redundant, overextended state departments in the band’s former country. The hits of the night included “Voennaya Monarkhiya” (“War Monarchy”) and a song that predated the advent of Russian hardcore called “Voiny dlya Voinov” (“Wars Are for Warriors”). OS also played covers of AU’s “Utrennichek” and Brigandy Podryad’s “Chuvak v Kaiv.”
Feddy’s enthusiasm on stage, his joking and talent made him seem like little less than a veteran punk rocker retaining his teenage angst and dissatisfaction with the system that cut short his band’s success. Rather than falling into the trap of washed-up nostalgic showmanship that some older musicians fall into, Feddy, Andrey “Yurskii” Chernov, and Gosha Solov’ev still kept the set fresh and relevant. Feddy even changed the lyrics of one of his songs to address the current political situation in Ukraine. All musicians, from the axe carrying veterans to the young drummer Kirill Pavlovskii (MURAV’EDY, SEGODNYA NOCHYU) played these songs like they were never forbidden and forgotten. In fact, the show was so successful that Feddy is looking to bring the music elsewhere.
Watch the whole damn show right here!