Гражданская Оборона

Grazhdanskaya Oborona formed in the Siberian city of Omsk by bandleader Yegor Letov. Over the long history of the group, Letov would go on to be its only constant member. Setting his group apart from other Russian groups of the period that were only nominally objectionable to the tenets of Communism, Letov branded Grazhdanskaya Oborona with the slogan "I will always be against." Grazhdanskaya Oborona are synonymous in Russia with self-destructive punk energy in the name of social dissidence. Grazhdanskaya Oborona started in 1982 as the group Posev (Sowing), which included founder Letov, who played drums and sang and who joined forces with bassist Konstantin Ryabinov. But because of the group's unapologetically defiant stance against the administration and aggressive music that condemned militarism and totalitarianism (some song titles included "I Hate the Red Color" and "Good Tsar, Familiar Stink"), it immediately became a target for the KGB. Letov was subsequently committed to a mental ward, and Ryabinov was sent to the Army. In 1984 Letov formed Grazhdanskaya Oborona and immediately began to write and record albums. He would often record all on his own, though he credited other musicians, who were really just pseudonyms. His style verged toward lo-fi, noisy punk rock, occasionally drawing inspiration from Russian folk tunes. His many albums were recorded with minimal technology in Letov's apartment or the apartments of friends and a changing cast of collaborators. He was so prolific, recording other groups as well, that his apartment came to be known as GrOb Studio, or GrOb Records. The albums recorded during this period were 1985's Nasty Youth (the first album ever composed by Letov) and Optimism; 1987's Necrophilia, Red Album, Totalitarianism, and It's Good; 1988's The Steel Was Tempered in Such a Way, Fighting Stimulus; and 1989's War, Fine and Forever, Armageddon-Pops, Russian Field of Experiments and the live record Songs of Joy and Happiness. During this period of heavy censorship and monitoring by the Soviet administration, GrOb's albums were copied many times and passed from one friend to the next. This system was named the magnitizdat network after the illegal samizdat self-publication and distribution of the literature of dissident authors throughout the Soviet Union. The group occasionally performed at small amateur venues and played a few rock festivals, which on one notable occasion ended with the electricity being cut off by KGB officials in the audience. In 1987 Letov formed the band Veliki Oktyabrya (Great Octobers) with Yanka Dyagileva, who would become his common-law wife. They traveled the country, playing songs and evading the KGB. They recorded three albums rooted in folk music: No Permission in 1987, and Go Home and Angedonia in 1989. He started working on the conceptual project Kommunizm (Communism), where kitschy Soviet art and Stalinist poetry were accompanied by Letov's dissimilar compositions. GrOb's sound mainly consists of either distorted electric or acoustic guitars, simple bass lines, rudimentary percussion and Letov's deeply impassioned voice. Letov's music experimented with lo-fi and noise. During the late 80's they also started occasionally implementing harsh industrial sounds in the background of the music. His lyrics became more irrational, and Letov began releasing recordings of his solo performances. He was incredibly prolific, releasing more than 30 albums under the name Grazhdanskaya Oborona.
Yegor Letov died on 19 February 2008 from heart respiratory standstill in sleep at his home in Omsk. He was 43 years old.


none Гражданская Оборона - Поганая Молодежь album art Гражданская Оборона Поганая Молодежь (Album) Not On Label none USSR 1988 Sell This Version
MAN 031 Гражданская Оборона - Последний Концерт В Таллине album art Гражданская Оборона Последний Концерт В Таллине (Album) Manchester Files MAN 031 Russia 1996 Sell This Version
hmc-006 Гражданская Оборона - Тоталитаризм album art Гражданская Оборона Тоталитаризм (Album) ХОР hmc-006 Russia 1996 Sell This Version
none Гражданская Оборона - Оптимизм album art Гражданская Оборона Оптимизм (Album) ХОР none USSR 1988 Sell This Version
none Гражданская Оборона - Красный Альбом album art Гражданская Оборона Красный Альбом (Album) ХОР none USSR 1986 Sell This Version
MAN 030 Гражданская Оборона - Концерт В МЭИ, 17.02.90 album art Янка И Гражданская Оборона Янка И Гражданская Оборона - Концерт В МЭИ, 17.02.90 (Album) Manchester Files MAN 030 Russia 1996 Sell This Version
SFC 0121 Гражданская Оборона - Русский Прорыв В Ленинграде album art Гражданская Оборона Русский Прорыв В Ленинграде (Album) Manchester Files SFC 0121 Russia 1996 Sell This Version
none Гражданская Оборона - Некрофилия album art Гражданская Оборона Некрофилия (Album) ХОР none USSR 1987 Sell This Version
none Гражданская Оборона - Мышеловка album art Гражданская Оборона Мышеловка (Album) ХОР none USSR 1987 Sell This Version
hmc-007 Гражданская Оборона - Хорошо !! album art Гражданская Оборона Хорошо !! (Album) ХОР hmc-007 Russia 1996 Sell This Version
none Гражданская Оборона - Игра В Бисер Перед Свиньями album art Гражданская Оборона Игра В Бисер Перед Свиньями (Album) ХОР none USSR 1986 Sell This Version
hmc-017 Гражданская Оборона - Невыносимая Легкость Бытия album art Гражданская Оборона Невыносимая Легкость Бытия (Album) ХОР hmc-017 Russia 1997 Sell This Version
hmc-016 Гражданская Оборона - Солнцеворот album art Гражданская Оборона Солнцеворот (Album) ХОР hmc-016 Russia 1997 Sell This Version
hmc-019 Гражданская Оборона - Концерт Г.О. album art Гражданская Оборона Концерт Г.О. (Album) ХОР hmc-019 Russia 1998 Sell This Version
HCD-033a Гражданская Оборона - Боевой Стимул album art Гражданская Оборона Боевой Стимул (Album) ХОР HCD-033a Russia 2001 Sell This Version
hmc-027 Гражданская Оборона - Русское Поле Экспериментов album art Гражданская Оборона Русское Поле Экспериментов (Album) ХОР hmc-027 Russia 2001 Sell This Version
hmc-034 Гражданская Оборона - Тошнота album art Гражданская Оборона Тошнота (Album) ХОР hmc-034 Russia 2001 Sell This Version
hmc-029 Гражданская Оборона - Армагеддон-Попс album art Гражданская Оборона Армагеддон-Попс (Album) ХОР hmc-029 Russia 2001 Sell This Version
hmc-028 Гражданская Оборона - Война album art Гражданская Оборона Война (Album) ХОР hmc-028 Russia 2001 Sell This Version
hmc-037 Гражданская Оборона - Песни Радости И Счастья album art Гражданская Оборона Песни Радости И Счастья (Album) ХОР hmc-037 Russia 2001 Sell This Version
HCD-030a Гражданская Оборона - Здорово И Вечно album art Гражданская Оборона Здорово И Вечно (Album) ХОР HCD-030a Russia 2001 Sell This Version
HCD-032a Гражданская Оборона - Так Закалялась Сталь album art Гражданская Оборона Так Закалялась Сталь (Album) ХОР HCD-032a Russia 2001 Sell This Version
URCD013 Гражданская Оборона - Свет И Стулья album art Гражданская Оборона Свет И Стулья(CD, Album) Ur-Realist URCD013 Russia 2001 Sell This Version
MNCD 249, HCD-075a Гражданская Оборона - Свобода = Freedom album art Гражданская Оборона Свобода = Freedom (Album) ХОР MNCD 249, HCD-075a Ukraine 2002 Sell This Version
HCD-058a Гражданская Оборона - Поезд Ушёл album art Гражданская Оборона Поезд Ушёл (Album) ХОР HCD-058a Russia 2002 Sell This Version

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June 17, 2016
Grazhdanskaya Oborona ("Civil Defense" in Russian) was perhaps the biggest cult music act in former USSR/Russia, not unlike The Grateful Dead in the US, and this fact cannot be overlooked when trying to understand their undying fame in the country. The death of the band's mastermind, Yegor Letov, has completely established their status as the godfathers of Soviet and Russian underground punk music.

First of all, I must clarify: Grazhdanskaya Oborona (or GrOb for short, which incidentally means "coffin" in Russian) were against all the rules in USSR. In a country where the state had a firm gripe on culture and propaganda, "independent music" could barely survive in the underground, being driven out and tirelessly repressed by the authorities. Where any dissent resulted in being put on KGB watchlist first, then either potential firing from the workplace, institutionalization or a jail sentence, singing songs like "Lenin is rotting in his mausoleum" was brave if nothing else.

So it's no wonder that GrOb have earned a reputation for their constant fight against the authoritarian state. The topic of "man vs system" is perhaps the most prominent in their early music, not to mention that the very act of its creation was a fight in itself: the band had to build their own equipment; record, publish and even distribute their music on their own; find places where they could play—and somehow manage to find money to survive and continue making music. Needless to say, there were no singles to sell, no videos to make; where the music recording business worked for artists in the West, it worked AGAINST GrOb in USSR. When you take these things into account, it's easy to understand why their early recordings have an extremely harsh "lo-fi" sound.

It would be difficult to overstate the importance and significance of the lyrics in Letov's songs. Despite the man himself admitted not being very consistent in his own opinions, he frequently affirmed that words always came before the music in his songwriting, and he preferred to keep the melodies simple. It's important to note his writings were noticeably influenced by literature, both contemporary and classic, Western and Russian. Alas, unfortunately for the people outside of Russia reading this, the meanings of his songs are pretty much impenetrable to foreigners: mixing the Soviet culture, propaganda, jargon, Russian/Slavic folk imagery with XXth century authors, counterculture and lots of swear words, his lyrics only really make sense if you grew up in the country. In their '80s work, Letov's songs often referred current political events. In his later more psychedelic works, like his album Pryg-Skok, he employed absurdism/deconstruction, with lyrics that often mentioned 2-3 unrelated Russian culture references in one verse, along with proverbs, sayings and so on.

But that's what made GrOb's music so unique and different from the rest of the Soviet underground bands like Kino. Both musically and lyrically, Letov melded together his punk/avant-garde sensibilities with his Russian cultural roots, not refusing, but thoroughly accepting and valuing his country's culture as a whole.

When it came to Letov's musical influences, his self-admitted favorite genres were the garage and psychedelic rock of the '60s, e.g. Love, early Pink Floyd, The Seeds, The Monks and The Sonics; however, he was also informed by most touchstone rock/punk artists, from Bob Dylan and Neil Young to Ramones and Sonic Youth. The sound of the band generally changed with what was popular in Western alt rock at the time, leaning from punk towards shoegaze in their later career. Needless to say, they didn't end there; the scope of the band's influences was rather broad and open, from avant-garde composers to Soviet pop bands.

Even now, GrOb remain a cultural symbol in Russia; they were a deeply Russian band, inseparable from their roots and the environment they made their music in. Their cult in following Russia may have outgrown their actual substance, but even still, they have earned their place as the biggest Russian cult act.

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