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Musician, Songwriter, Cultural Force: Remembering Russia's Viktor Tsoi

Viktor Tsoi, front man for the popular Soviet band Kino, died in a car crash on August 15, 1990. Twenty-five years later, the lasting influence of the man often dubbed Russia's Jim Morrison continues to be felt.


Viktor Tsoi was born in Leningrad in June 1962. His family heritage was Korean. He was kicked out of a Soviet art academy at the age of 15. Two years later, in 1979, he began writing songs.
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Viktor Tsoi was born in Leningrad in June 1962. His family heritage was Korean. He was kicked out of a Soviet art academy at the age of 15. Two years later, in 1979, he began writing songs.

Tsoi's brand of post-punk, new wave rock was not accepted in the Soviet Union. He joined Leningrad's underground musical scene. Once he attended an underground concert by Boris Grebenshchikov, after which he managed to play two of his original songs for the Aquarium front man. Impressed, Grebenshchikov helped Tsoi form his own band.
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Tsoi's brand of post-punk, new wave rock was not accepted in the Soviet Union. He joined Leningrad's underground musical scene. Once he attended an underground concert by Boris Grebenshchikov, after which he managed to play two of his original songs for the Aquarium front man. Impressed, Grebenshchikov helped Tsoi form his own band.

Tsoi, shown here performing with his band Kino in Moscow in 1988, made his stage debut in Leningrad as a soloist in 1982. His profound lyrics and starkly original music made him an immediate sensation.
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Tsoi, shown here performing with his band Kino in Moscow in 1988, made his stage debut in Leningrad as a soloist in 1982. His profound lyrics and starkly original music made him an immediate sensation.

Also in 1982, Tsoi formed the band Kino and the group recorded its first album, 45. The song Elektrichka, about a man stuck on a commuter train going in the wrong direction, was taken as a metaphor for life in the Soviet Union and was promptly banned by the authorities.
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Also in 1982, Tsoi formed the band Kino and the group recorded its first album, 45. The song Elektrichka, about a man stuck on a commuter train going in the wrong direction, was taken as a metaphor for life in the Soviet Union and was promptly banned by the authorities.

Tsoi and Kino quickly became a sensation. In 1983, they debuted their song I Declare My Home (A Nuclear-Free Zone). In 1986, the band released (We Want) Changes! -- an anthem calling on the young generation to become more active and demand political change. The song made Kino's reputation across the Soviet Union.
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Tsoi and Kino quickly became a sensation. In 1983, they debuted their song I Declare My Home (A Nuclear-Free Zone). In 1986, the band released (We Want) Changes! -- an anthem calling on the young generation to become more active and demand political change. The song made Kino's reputation across the Soviet Union.

Tsoi married Marianna Rodovanskaya in 1985. Later that year, their son, Aleksandr, was born. Marianna, who died of cancer in 2005, was Tsoi's heir and controlled the rights to his music after his death.
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Tsoi married Marianna Rodovanskaya in 1985. Later that year, their son, Aleksandr, was born. Marianna, who died of cancer in 2005, was Tsoi's heir and controlled the rights to his music after his death.

In 1988, Tsoi starred in the movie The Needle by director Rashid Nugmanov (right). In the center is Tsoi's co-star, Nina Ilyina. In the film, Tsoi plays a man desperately trying to break his girlfriend's morphine habit and fight the narcotics mafia. Tsoi and Kino provided the film's soundtrack.  
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In 1988, Tsoi starred in the movie The Needle by director Rashid Nugmanov (right). In the center is Tsoi's co-star, Nina Ilyina. In the film, Tsoi plays a man desperately trying to break his girlfriend's morphine habit and fight the narcotics mafia. Tsoi and Kino provided the film's soundtrack.

 

After his tragic death in August 1990 in a car crash, Tsoi's friends and fans held a tribute concert in Moscow. Earlier that year, Kino had played its largest concert ever -- bringing 62,000 fans to Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.
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After his tragic death in August 1990 in a car crash, Tsoi's friends and fans held a tribute concert in Moscow. Earlier that year, Kino had played its largest concert ever -- bringing 62,000 fans to Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.

The Viktor Tsoi wall on Moscow's Arbat Street. When Tsoi died, the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda wrote: "Tsoi means more to the youth of our nation than any politician, celebrity, or writer. This is because Tsoi never lied and never sold out."
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The Viktor Tsoi wall on Moscow's Arbat Street. When Tsoi died, the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda wrote: "Tsoi means more to the youth of our nation than any politician, celebrity, or writer. This is because Tsoi never lied and never sold out."

The photo shows a portrait of Tsoi in downtown St. Petersburg. In 2014, United Russia lawmaker Yevgeny Fyodorov caused a sensation by claiming that the CIA wrote Tsoi's songs as part of its effort to destroy the Soviet Union. Tsoi's son has sued Fyodorov for defaming his father.
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The photo shows a portrait of Tsoi in downtown St. Petersburg. In 2014, United Russia lawmaker Yevgeny Fyodorov caused a sensation by claiming that the CIA wrote Tsoi's songs as part of its effort to destroy the Soviet Union. Tsoi's son has sued Fyodorov for defaming his father.

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