with a DIY Punk activist from St. Petersburg, Russia
in Trust Fanzine October 2008)
In August I traveled with a backpack
and a friend through the Ukraine and western Russia. Concerning Russia,
we had the diffuse idea of a country in which altenative, especially leftist
subcultures are confronted with multiple and massive threats. Our expectations
were based on the postings on indymedia
about punks that got sabbed by boneheads, the stories of punkbands that
need to organize their gigs in a clandestine way and the reports about
close entwinements between the police and militant fascists.
Therefore we were quite surprised how many "alternatively" looking
kids we saw in western-russian cities.
When we met Szarapow in St. Petersburg,
we took the opportunity and did this interview with him. Szarapow is actively
involved in the local DIY scene since years: He
published several fanzines, is organizing concerts, is currently creating
an anarchist internet platform, runs a label and plays in the band Svinokop.
Yesterday you played with your band on
a concert that has been organized by members of the band Crowd Control.
From our point of view, the circumstances under which it took place were
not usual: The crowd met at a metro station and then we walked altogether
to the place where the gig took place, an abandoned construction site
outside the city. Is it common that concerts are organized illegaly and
in a clandestine way?
No, it´s also an exception around here. Usually
we do concerts in commercial rock-clubs or we rent any fucking bar in
the outskirts. But sometimes an illegal setting is chosen, mainly because
of the atmosphere.
So the concert yesterday was not organized
"underhand" because the situation in St. Petersburg is kind
of threatening for political DIY gigs?
I do not really know that, you should ask the paople
who organized it. I just played there. But I do think that it´s
mainly because it´s more fun doing it this way: There is no security,
you can make fires, etc. pp.
Nevertheless I assume that it also plays a role that the band Crowd Control
is known for being part of the antifascist movement. If the concert would
have been announced in public, it would have been possible that fascist
attacked. (...) But I do not really think that the nazis here are that
suicidal. I mean, sometimes punks are attacked when they are alone or
in small groups, but that rather takes place in the city center. There
it´s much easier to disappear in the crowds afterwards and not get
In general, there are that many punk gigs in St Petersburg (2- 3 per week),
nazis would hardly be able able to attack all of them. That is why the
nazis (and the police as well) prefers to focus on political bands like
Crowd Control or Komatoz. Because some of their members are known for
organizing antifascist actions and have been arrested for doing so.
(Zorka in St. Petersburg
Is it the special situation in St. Petersburg
that there are that many concerts and that the situation is relatively
relaxed? How would you judge the situation in other cities, especially
I don´t know, I´m not getting around
that much in Russia. I would say, recently most of the concerts in Moscow
are taking place in the outskirts. The clubs in Moscow itself are not
doing punk gigs anymore, because there´s a high risk of violence:
In spring this year an antifascist was stabbed in a planned attack while
he was heading to a concert. Something similar happened 2 years ago already.
At the same time, I think that it is kind of more common among the punk
kids in Moscow to get drunk and destroy the venue. In St. Petersburg the
scene seems kind of more "reflective" to me. Of course the walls
get tagged here as well and bottles get smashed on the sidewalk from time
to time, but it´s not that massive as you might see it in Moscow.
For example, there is the Jerry Rubin Club, a venue that is closely linked
to the anarachist movement: They do not do any punkgigs at all anymore,
because the kids destroyed the place several times, pissed all over the
yards of the neighbours, etc. (...)
In the smaller cities where you have an active underground / DIY scene,
concerts are usually organized "underhand". They rent any shithole
and the kids spread the date and place just mouth by mouth among their
friends. Some years ago, nazis attacked a punk concert in the little town
of Volzhskiy, near Volgograd. When the punks defended themselves, a nazi
was hurt seriously and died later in the hospital. Something similar happened
in the year 2000 in Moscow, when fascists attacked a concert of the skapunk-bands
Spitfire and Distemper. An 18 year old nazi died after he got stabbed.
These cases show clearly the difference between the two sides of the conflict:
In those cases where nazis got killed by antifascists it has always been
an act of self-defence against a prior nazi attack. On the other hand,
when punks or antifascists die, you usually have a complete different
situation: A dozen nazis, armed with knifes, attack a small group of people
who are walking down the street peacefuly. This explains the high number
of killed antifascists compared to the relatively low number of dead fascists.
So the reason for the relatively relaxed
atmosphere in St. Petersburg is the numerical proportion between many
punks/ antifas on one side and relatively few nazis on the other side?
This makes it hard for them to attack activists continously?
In St. Petersburg it is more common that they "patrol"
in the streets and attack people they identify as antifas or as people
from Asia, Africa or the Northern Caucasus. I can´t really tell
you how big the nazi scene is here, I am not observing it continously
and in detail.
At the meetingpoint at the metro yesterday
an incident took place when a passer-by started insulting the punks. During
the conflict he was pepper-sprayed. How would you judge the general attitude
towards the punks on behalf of society?
Well, people did not call me a faggot because of
my earrings since roundabout 10 years now... It has became kind of common
wearing piercings or tattoos at least in the big cities. Nevertheless,
I don´t think that it would be tolerated to live openly gay here.
Rascism and xenophobia are widespread among the people here, so I would
not say that subcultures are the main objective of reactionary mainstream.
People from Aserbaidschan, Middle Asia, Usbekistan are more likely to
be the victims. Although the nazi violence usually is rejected by the
mainstream society, this does not mean that a xenophobic and antisemitic
tenor does not exist.(...)
Beside the DIY scene we are talking about:
Is there a commercial punk movement existing in St. Petersburg?
Of course. On the
Sex pistols gig in June (where I went and which was brillant by the way)
there were 2300 people, which I would consider as much. But when Exploited
played 10 years ago, there were twice as much people. So probably the
old punks are dying out here slowly as well.
But we also have commercial bands here that usually play melody-core or
similar and which are playing in stadiums from time to time. And there
are still some old bands from the early years that are filling big venues.
You also lived a while in Australia and
also traveled to Western Europe several times already: Where do you see
the main differeneces between the scenes here and there, e.g. regarding
I think these things are not dicussed that much
over here. Here the kids are now beginning to realize what all this is
I´d say, one of the main differences is that in the so-called "western
world" you have a certain continuity regarding anarchist ideas. Here,
the so-called "communism" annihilated the anarachist movement
during the1920s/ 1930s. In Western Europe, the US and Australia there
are projects who have a long history. There you were usually not thrown
into prison when being an open anarchist- you had the opportunity to publish
books. This was completely impossible in Russia. Just now books are staring
to be be published here, ideas start to spread and people get organized.
Similar things can be observed in the music scene: In Western Europe you
have alternative music scenes since the 1960s / 70s or even earlier: Proggare
in Sweden, the Hippies anywhere and the squatter´s ovement with
bands like Ton Steine Scherben in Western Germany. We did not have these
things here, even the first rock clubs were established in the 1990s.
This means we do have lot less grown infrastructure here as well. In Russia
you will not find a youth centre in any town like you do in Germany. We
neither have enough people or ressources to run projects like newspapers,
magazines, infoshops etc. For example, the zine „Abolishing the
Borders from Below“ (international anarcho-/ activist- magazine
with bnews from all over Eastern Europe) is done by a collective in Berlin.
This is because there is no city in Eastern Europe where you find the
You find info about SZs distro and his band
His postal address: dmitrij ivanov, po box
30, st. petersburg-9, 195009, russia
interview was done by Peter and Daniel and was published in the Trust
#132 (Okt./Nov. 08).
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