Russia’s Dissident Revival

The New York Times is running an article about the return of “apartment concerts” and dissident songs, as those artists who once braved the violence of the Soviet dictatorship to protest are once again finding themselves in a similar situation.  The article takes a look at the attempts by the government to introduce wider opinion and open up slightly to the opposition in an attempt to control these types of activities – though they fear the maximum expression of perestroika, as history could repeat itself.

“We hope such concerts will become a tradition,” he said. “We have a long line of people calling us who said they would be honored to join us next time.”

Mr. Kim sang old songs, saying they had new resonance. “‘Lawyer’s Waltz’ is over 40 years old,” he said, introducing a song he wrote then about the Soviet dissidents of 1968 and the lawyer who tried to defend them against preordained court rulings.

“Now it could easily be sung in the middle of the Basmanny Court,” he said, referring to the court hearing many of the cases involving Yukos and its imprisoned founder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Those cases have become shorthand for what human rights activists say is a justice system manipulated by the Kremlin. Mr. Kim also sang a song of the Soviet youth movement, which he recast last year as a ditty about newly resurgent spy mania.

If in the 1990s Russiansstruggled to survive, or scrambled to make money, and in the Putin eraraced to outdo one another in consumerism, as oil dollars and shoppingcenters swept the country, people now seem to have rediscovered theneed to gather and talk, in updated versions of the Soviet kitchen.

Kvartirniki, or “apartment concerts,” a staple of the Sovietunderground, are undergoing a revival, and invitation-only salons arecompeting with nightclubs. Glossy magazines talk of the “new sincerity”and “new spirituality,” reporting that well-to-do Russians, lickingwounds from the crisis, would rather sit at the kitchen table thanpatronize another fancy restaurant.