Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

Viktor Tsoi, myth, and memory: The making of an underground hero

Fri31  Mar12:45pm(15 mins)
Main Building Room 132


Caroline Ridler1
1 University of Nottingham, UK


Viktor Tsoi remains a hugely important cultural figure in Russia and former Soviet countries to the present day. His untimely death in August 1990 made him into a cult hero for Soviet and post-Soviet youth, representing freedom and change in the political climate of Gorbachev’s glasnost. This paper explores the powerful mythologisation of Tsoi as an underground hero which has dominated the public reception of his legacy in recent biographical films, exhibitions, concerts, and media. Through analysis of important memorial events and cultural artefacts, it questions the political and historical reasons why Tsoi remains so important in the Russian cultural consciousness. It will also challenge the adequacy of this underground myth in remembering Tsoi by exploring how he was co-opted into official culture during glasnost and perestroika, appearing on Soviet television, performing in stadium concerts, and starring in films. It questions how the specific cultural context of glasnost enabled Tsoi to traverse the binaries of ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ culture, transposing his marginal image into the cultural foreground. It explores why it is this marginal image that has shaped his legacy today, despite the professionalisation and commercialisation of his music in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s.