Arts & Entertainment

Viktor Tsoi: Iconic Soviet rockstar who was symbol of freedom, change

Moscow, May 24 (EFE).- Viktor Tsoi, the charismatic rocker who became a symbol of the Soviet reformist perestroika movement and who through his music vocalized a nation’s desire for change and freedom, has stormed the Manege hall with a biopic exhibition in downtown Moscow.

“Tsoi is an inherent part of contemporary Russian culture,” Alexandr Karmayev, creator and producer of the ‘Viktor Tsoi. The Path of a Hero’, tells Efe. “We wanted to understand the Tsoi phenomenon, as he is the only musician whose work is listened to by several generations.”

For many, the leader of the rock band Kino is remembered for his song “I Want Changes”, which became a symbol of change in late 1980s Soviet Russia and which for many continues to be a call for progress.


The musician, of Korean descent, and who would have turned 60 in June, died in a car accident in 1990 aged 28.

French producer Joël Bastenaire, a friend of Tsoi’s, recalls that the musician “was always against any war” and that at the time he feigned psychiatric problems to avoid being sent to Afghanistan.

“The fact that Russia currently prohibits the use of the word ‘war’ would surely irritate him a lot. That is why he might have fled to Latvia, where he had a house,” the producer muses.

According to Agnia Sterlingova, also a producer, Tsoi is a figure of unity and consensus in Russia, and it may well be this status that allowed curators to garner the necessary support to bring the biopic to fruition.

Upon entering the first space, visitors are entranced by a spiral that guides them through Tsoi’s early school years and the shy teenager’s first hobbies and influences.


The organizers of the show were keen to present the elements of Tsoi that evaded his public persona: from cartoonist to painter, actor and stoker.

“Can you say that a person is anti-establishment when he goes to work as a stoker, to shovel coal?” Karmayev muses

An entire room is dedicated to this stage of his life, back in 1986, when he met Bastenaire, who produced two of his records.


According to Bastenaire, the musician forged a heroic persona, especially in the late 80s, “after he realized that his fame was largely due to his participation in films, rather than his work as a singer.”

Two rooms of the show explore Tsoi’s film work, including the movie “Iglá” (The Needle), and the unpublished project “Citadel of Death”, both by Kazakh director Rashid Nugmánov, and the latter of which remained unfinished due to Tsoi’s sudden death.


Tsoi’s fondness for drawing and painting are a key part of the exhibition which features works donated by his second wife, Natalya Razlogova, and his son, Alexandr Tsoi.

But music is the element that weaves the entire exhibition together, via his songs, several interviews with bandmates and other Russian musicians, concert posters and Tsoi’s guitar collection.

According to Bastenaire, although Tsoi’s music was “pure new wave, similar to that of the British groups of the time” and he knew how to surprise his audience with “those dark songs, with strange, purely Russian, verses, that only a Russian could sing.”

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