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Since Russia’s President Putin’s return to power, rock music in Russia has faced somewhat of an ordeal. As Moscow pronounced the punk rock band Pussy Riot guilty of hosting a political protest in an Orthodox cathedral, attracting international condemnation, it is reported that fans of Viktor Tsoi, leader of Russia’s legendary rock band Kino, are under police surveillance.
Tsoi was born on June 21, 1962 in Saint Petersburg by a Korean-Russian father and a Russian mother. He studied at Serov Artistic Academy in Leningrad from 1974 to 1977, but was kicked out for writing and performing anti-national songs. He formed the rock group Kino under the Soviet Communism. Tsoi quickly became popular among young Russians who were craving change in the Soviet Union.
Tsoi, who died in 1990, has been considered a symbol of freedom and resistance for Russian people. His 50th birthday was marked this year. Pictures of Tsoi can still be spotted in the downtown of Moscow and Saint Petersburg and many commemorative events have been held by his fans in these cities.
Since Tsoi is a singer beloved by many Russian people, his fans have called on the Russian government to name a street after him. However, instead of considering the idea, the police authority of Saint Petersburg officially announced last July that they are monitoring the fans of Kino in order to control extremist activities.
In Russia, once police authorities decide to monitor someone, they can exercise governmental power in the name of maintaining public order. For instance, the police authority of Saint Petersburg made a raid of a rock concert held at club ArcticA, which is best-known for heavy rock and folk gigs, where they detaining about 400 people for couple of hours and took their fingerprints and pictures. So-called ‘extremism prevention law,’ signed by Putin in 2006, is the foundation for this measure: signs of opposition towards Putin or other human rights activism is monitored, causing controversy among Russian citizens.
The actions of Saint Petersburg’s police authority prompts concerns about the possible infringing of human rights, and there are some people who believe Russia is changing itself to the days of the Soviet Union, when a repressive dictatorship dominated the whole country.
For example, a noted Russian scholar who asked not to be named said “It seems that the Russian government is trying to monitor fans of KINO as a warning to others. However, it shouldn’t have made a big deal out of it. It is causing harsh controversy as you witnessed rather having Russian people over.”
Tsoi died in 1990 in a car accident. However, since most of his songs were talking about freedom and resistance against the Soviet Union, there was a rumor that Tsoi was assassinated by the communist or secret government agency. Even though about 20 years past, he remains one of the idols for many Russian people.