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Leningrads Legends of Beat

Published: October 23, 2013 (Issue # 1783)



  • Leningrad beat groups like Avangard included wind instruments alongside their guitars to comply with a government decree.
    Photo: Alexander Petrenko / For SPT

A gala concert called Rock Beat Leningrad 63 will reopen an obscure page of St. Petersburgs rock and roll history by featuring a number of bands that formed in the 1960s. The man behind the concert is Alexander Petrenko, the founder of the pioneering local band Avangard (Russian for both avant-garde and vanguard) that came into existence in Leningrad, as St. Petersburg was then known, in 1963 the same year The Beatles debut album Please Please Me came out.

The 1960s are a strange and little known period in Russian rock music history. Khrushchev was removed in October 1964 and replaced by Brezhnev, while authoritarian ideology strengthened with the Sinyavsky-Daniel trial in 1965, effectively putting an end to the Khrushchev Thaw, the liberalization started by the dismissed leader following the death of Stalin.

But while censorship became more severe in literature, cinema and visual art, rock or beat bands were looked upon as innocent entertainment for youth.

At the time, the Kremlin even supported rock music, according to rock historian Andrei Burlaka, who co-organized the concert. As Soviet baby boomers grew up, the authorities sought ways to occupy young people.

In 1965, there was a special governmental decree on youth leisure activities, and a network of youth cafes began to be developed. They usually had a stage and rather cheap prices, he said.

For, say, 50 kopeks a man could have some salad and a cutlet, listen to music, dance and meet a girl. This was a purposeful policy on the states part. For instance, the Leningrad Metal Plant curated the Evrika café on Prospekt Energetikov, which was on the edge of the city then, because there were collective farm fields beyond. Despite this, it became a fashionable place because the coolest bands played there, and trendy young people from Nevsky Prospekt all went there.

Apart from Evrika, the most popular youth cafes included Beliye Nochi on Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa and Rovesnik on Ulitsa Karla Marksa (now Bolshoy Sampsoniyevsky Prospekt). Each such cafe had a youth council that had some funds to book bands, sometimes from other cities.

There were no restrictions about the repertoire, singing in English was allowed and you could perform whatever you wanted, Burlaka said.

Other venues available to Leningrad bands from the 1960s were colleges and universities that booked them for parties as well as dozens of clubs that held dance parties outside the city. The concerts in the countryside frequently resulted in fistfights between those who had come from the city and local rowdies. The bands were also occasionally involved in the brawls.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Oct. 22


English teachers can expect to receive a few useful pointers today from Evgeny Kalashnikov, the British Council regional teacher, during the EFL Seminar this afternoon hosted by the British Book Center. The topic of todays seminar is Grammar Practice.


Young Petersburgers will get the chance to jumpstart their careers at Professional Growth, a job fair and forum featuring more than 40 major Russian and international companies vying for potential candidates for future positions. The forum not only is a chance to network but also to learn more about the modern business world and to understand what it takes to get the job you want.



Thursday, Oct. 23


AmChams Public Relations Committee meeting is scheduled to meet this morning at 9 a.m. in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center.


Sportsmen get their chance to stock up on all kinds of gear at the Hunting and Fishing 2014 exhibition starting today at Lenexpo. Everything from rods and reels to boats, motorcycles and equipment for underwater hunting will be on sale so that any avid outdoorsman can always be prepared.



Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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