Гражданская Оборона

Гражданская Оборона

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Grazhdanskaya Oborona formed in the Siberian town 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, rudimentry 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.
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Гражданская Оборона Discography Tracks

Albums

Гражданская Оборона Поганая Молодежь (Album) Not On Label USSR 1989 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Тоталитаризм (Album) ХОР Russia 1996 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Русский Прорыв В Ленинграде (Album) Manchester Files Russia 1996 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Последний Концерт В Таллине (Album) Manchester Files Russia 1996 Sell This Version
Янка И Гражданская Оборона Янка И Гражданская Оборона - Концерт В МЭИ, 17.02.90 (Album) Manchester Files Russia 1996 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Хорошо !! (Album) ХОР Russia 1996 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Некрофилия (Album) ХОР Russia 1996 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Игра В Бисер Перед Свиньями (Album) ХОР Russia 1996 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Красный Альбом (Album) ХОР Russia 1996 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Оптимизм (Album) ХОР Russia 1996 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Мышеловка (Album) ХОР Russia 1996 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Невыносимая Легкость Бытия (Album) ХОР Russia 1997 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Солнцеворот (Album) ХОР Russia 1997 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Концерт (Album) ХОР Russia 1998 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Здорово И Вечно (Album) ХОР Russia 2001 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Русское Поле Экспериментов (Album) ХОР Russia 2001 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Война (Album) ХОР Russia 2001 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Армагеддон-Попс (Album) ХОР Russia 2001 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Тошнота (Album) ХОР Russia 2001 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Боевой Стимул (Album) ХОР Russia 2001 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Так Закалялась Сталь (Album) ХОР Russia 2001 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Песни Радости И Счастья (Album) ХОР Russia 2001 Sell This Version
URCD013 Гражданская Оборона Свет И Стулья(CD, Album) Ur-Realist URCD013 Russia 2001 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Поезд Ушёл (Album) ХОР Russia 2002 Sell This Version
Гражданская Оборона Свобода = Freedom (Album) ХОР Ukraine 2002 Sell This Version

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Death_Coast

Death_Coast

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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