Sunday, March 25, 2007

Grazhdanskaya Oborona-POGANAYA MOLODEJ tape (1985)+OPTIMIZM tape (1985),Russia

Band History compiled by Jeremy Toomey, Discography by Jeremy Toomey and Pawel Malinowski
Grazhdanskaya Oborona ("Civil Defense") started in 1985 in Omsk, Siberia, after their previous band, Posev ("Sowing"), were forced to stop by the KBG. They were led by Yegor Letov, who's something of a living legend in Russia (a "punk messiah" so to speak), and were the most explicitly political band of their day. Of course, songs like "I Hate the Red Color", "Necrophilia" and "Good Tsar and the Familiar Stink" caused problems with the authorities, so stories could be told of Yegor's time spent in the state-run mental hospital, or having to go underground to avoid detection by the KGB. But musically, they released quite a few albums on cassette in the mid- to late-80's (which were later reissued on CD). Also, their last concert (recorded live in Tallinn, Estonia in April of 1990) has been issued as an album.There are a few related bands in playing in different, yet similar styles: Egor I Opizdanevshiye ("Egor and the Fuckups", a short lived project with 2 2xLPs in 1990 and 1992, respectively titled Hop-Jump (Children's songs) and 100 Years of Solitude), Communism (bizzare, avant-garde music - it is satirical weirdness using communist songs and imagery), Great October (folkie stuff playing the songs of Yanka Dyagileva, Egor's common-law wife) and solo projects.Here's the sad part: around 1993, Grazhdanskaya Oborona reformed and have now achieved commercial success as a virulent nationalist/right-wing/communist band. It's disgusting. It's pathetic. And now even the actual music sucks! Hmmm... I guess after the fall of communism, they sort of lost their reason to exist, and started to miss the system they always sang about hating...

Kirill Ivanugo
Grazhdanskaya Oborona: 1982 - 1990
Grazhdanskaya Oborona (Civil Defence) is one of the leading bands of 80’s Soviet underground which has its roots in early Siberian punk movement. The band was founded in Omsk in 1982 (initially under the name Posev which means 'Sowing') by a very remarkable figure - a poet and a painter Egor Letov who became a kind of guru for both angry teenagers and intellectuals. By 1987 the band became the most popular and influential punk-rock band in USSR due to its minimalistic but powerful and highly energetic music, gravelly and fervent singing of band’s leader Egor Letov and, the last but not the least, his provocative, ironic lyrics often criticizing the society and political system. Numerous Oborona’s albums recorded between 1985 and 1990 were made by Letov himself in his home studio called GrOb Records using the unique handmade equipment largely adapted from diverse technical devices. Some of the albums were entirely recorded by Letov alone: he’s done everything from singing and playing all instruments to sound engineering and painting the cover artwork. This "do-it-yourself" attitude was one of the cornerstones of Oborona’s music.
The first three records, Poganaya Molodyozh’ (Rotten Youth), Optimizm and Igra v Biser pered Svinyami (The Glass Bead Game Before Swine) represent the first period in Oborona’s history. The former two had the group playing naοve, but smart mixture of garage rock, punk & new wave combined with witty, slightly Zappa-esque lyrics. The latter album was more experimental - entirely acoustic with guitar, flute and harmonica arrangements and strong psychedelic feel.
In 1987 Letov alone recorded five albums in a row - in a nutshell, it was angry and straightforward punk-rock with with heavy and dry sound, madly howling vocals and bitter, nihilistic, explicit lyrics. Three of them - Myshelovka (Mousetrap), Totalitarizm and Nekrophilia - are often regarded as indisputable classics of Soviet punk-rock. Krasnyi Albom (The Red Album) was nothing more than electric version of The Glass Bead Game Before Swine.
On the next three albums recorded during just 10 days in January 1988 the band tried in vain to repeat the artistic success of last year’s session: Letov’s voice sounded rather tired, the lyrics were too political, lacking wit and brilliance evident on the band’s best songs. Still, these albums weren’t bad at all sounding often more diverse, personal and even more experimental than Oborona’s classic punk works. In fact, the band was ready to move further to a more versatile and complex music.
All four albums recorded by Grazhdanskaya Oborona in 1989 helped them gain a reputation of one of the most original and creative bands of Russian underground. They moved from their punk roots to an eager, dark, experimental hardcore with strong psychedelic and industrial influences courtesy of Letov’s avant-garde side-project Kommunizm. The sound quality remains rather poor but now this is made intentionally, in accord with the band’s conception of sound production. A variety of hand-made instruments and gimmicks, largely borrowed from junkyards, was used during the recording sessions. The music covers a vast range of styles: from folk and 60’s singer/songwriter patterns to typical American hardcore and dark Joy Division-style post-punk, from soviet popular songs to Sonic Youth-esque guitar sludge and Butthole Surfers-like sonic freak-outs. The lyrics became more profound and allegorical dealing with stereotypes of Soviet mass consciousness, left-wing social ideas, and filled with literary and philosophical references. Russkoye Pole Experimentov (Russian Field of Experiments) is arguably the band’s best album mainly due to the fantastic 14-minutes eponymous track.
The first live album Pesni Radosti i Schastya (Songs of Joy and Happiness) was recorded with technical help from members of fellow band Auktyon, who often supported their Siberian friends. The band’s live sound was even more extreme and raw, sometimes closer to death or black metal. The last studio work of classic period Oborona consisted of songs written by another Siberian punk-rockers Instruktsiya po Vyzhivaniyu (Survival Tactics) whose leader decided to quit rock music and offered the rights to all his material to Egor Letov.
Soon after that the band split and Letov continued playing and recording with his new psychedelic rock combo Egor & Opizdenevshie (which translates into something genuinely obscene).

Really great stuff! Just heard them very recently and was ammazed.Great Anarcho-punk(in Zounds/Mob/Astronauts vein) with psych/weirdness touches.HIGHLY RECOMMENTED!
get it here


Anonymous said...

thanks, I've read about this years ago in a punk fanzine and listen one track, and now I find it here ;-)

Anonymous said...

Wow ... awesome, thank you! I love these guys. I saw Grob last year here in Brooklyn. Do you have any Instrukciya Pi Vyzhivaniyu? As the article states they were one of Letov's main influences.

I have their Smertnoe album ... I will try to post it in the comments section, but I really don't know if I can. First I need to translate the tracks. It is very good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Most GrOb-releases are available for download from their info-site:

Anonymous said...

looks really interesting. I don't know much about russian stuff outside of Kino, so this should be great.

mutantsounds said...

you have to speak russian though mr. anonymous,to understand what's written

Anonymous said...

Is it okay to post the file for Instrukciya Pi Vyzhivaniyu here, or should I send it somewhere else? I am uploading it now ... I have about 20 minutes to go. I now have much more appriciation for your blog. I could never have the time to do this.

Anonymous said...

>you have to speak russian though mr. anonymous,to understand what's written<
Or just be adventurous and click on the links!

Anonymous said...

Not such a big surprise that Letov went Nazi - he's never been Mr Nice Guy. Just look at his ambivalent relationship with Yanka (Dyagileva). But he died half a year ago, better let him r.i.p.
Some links:
And don't let Russian language scare you away - you'll find all of Yanka's music here, if you search hard enough:
BTW - today would have been Yanka's 42th birhtday, hadn't she dies in 1991 already.

But there's someone alive in her tradition in Eastern Ukraine:
( is a public servise site for independent artist, usually with download links - check out this one:

Peretz said...

Thanks for posting this. I have read alot of GO but never heard much. I also recommend the band Spinki Menta in which Letov collaborated with Vadim Kuzmin, which is excellent. I also highly recommend the anarchist folk-punk band from Moscow, Mongol Shuudan who are also essential listening for anyone interested in Russian punk. Check out ehir site at for free mp3's and tons of other info in Russki of course.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for this post and also many thanks for NaturalBornAnarchist posting the link to Yanka's work.


Hello from ex-USSR, Ukraine

There was also amazing and very obscure band Curt & The Contras in Siberia (Yeah, think of connection with Letov).

"Curt & The Contras who were the very first hardcore/crossover thrash metal band in Russia/ex-USSR."

The music may be too harsh/dark for some listeners, but it's great anyway.

Here is cover of one of their songs