BASEES Annual Conference 2022

A Soviet rock star: Viktor Tsoi’s onstage and onscreen image

Fri8  Apr04:20pm(20 mins)
Garden Room


Caroline Ridler


Viktor Tsoi was a Soviet underground rock musician who was propelled to national stardom during the period of glasnost and perestroika (1986 to his death in 1990) and remains a cult figure in Russia and the post-Soviet world. This paper explores how Tsoi created the image of an underground rock hero both onstage and onscreen through analysis of concert performances and contemporary films, as well as other visual sources such as photographs and archival footage. It discusses how Tsoi performed a powerful image which embodied youth culture, marginality, and the desire for change amidst the radical social and cultural transformations brought about by glasnost. Yet his participation in official culture during glasnost – for example appearing in official Soviet films and performing in stadium concerts –- destabilises the image of marginality he created. Moreover, Tsoi’s countercultural image, paradoxically, came to represent the climate of tolerance and openness which characterised Gorbachev’s reforms. This paper explores the contradictions between Tsoi’s rise to public prominence during glasnost, and his creation of a powerful underground image which has shaped his legacy to the present day.