On May 18, Russian rock band DDT performed a sold-out concert in Ufa, a city of over one million people located west of the Ural Mountains. Nearly 10,000 fans were there, and they were looking forward to the concert. After all, DDT is a Russian rock band legend. frontman and songwriter Yuri Shevchuk is one of the country’s most prominent rock stars.
Shevchuk is especially popular in Ufa. He grew up in the Volga metropolis, wrote his first songs there, and it was there that DDT was founded in 1981, a group whose sound announced for many the era of perestroika and now accompanies it.
DDT musicians at a concert in Berlin in 2004
In the middle of the concert, Shevchuk appeared in front of the audience and said: “People are being killed in Ukraine, our boys are also dying there. For what? What are the goals, my friends? Russian youth and Ukrainian youth. Old people, women and children are also dying. For what? For some Napoleonic plans for the next Caesar? That’s it? Applause accompanied his speech.
Yuri Shevchuk’s courage is punished
“But our homeland is not the president’s ass, which you have to lick and kiss all the time,” Shevchuk continued. “Our homeland – for me is the poor grandmother at the station who sells potatoes. And now I will sing for you a song that is particularly close to my heart: ‘Love’.” Shevchuk sang his 1996 hit, and the audience cheered. Some reported on social media that there were shouts of “f**k war!” and a chorus of voices singing in the arena. However, videos from this moment can no longer be found so easily.
After the concert, Shevchuk was visited by the police. A written account was drawn up, the accusation more or less amounting to Shevchuk’s “discrediting of the Russian Armed Forces”. The case is soon to be brought to court in St. Petersburg, where the musician lives. Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that the case had already been registered. Shevchuk himself laconically commented on the event, saying: “Yes, I must have blabbered a lot.”
Russian rock stars against the war
Yuri Shevchuk is an avowed and well-known pacifist: “Don’t shoot!” was the name of one of his early songs, which is still well received by fans today. He wrote it after a conversation with Afghan returnees with whom he had previously been in a school class.
Shevchuk remained faithful to the cause and constantly protested against the many wars of the following decades: thus, he gave a concert in Belgrade with his DDT musicians after the bombardment of the city by NATO troops in 1999. He condemned Russia’s wars in Chechnya, which began in 1994.
Immediately after Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, the visibly disappointed musician said in an interview: “As DDT, we have always sung for peace. But I guess that didn’t help: you can see for yourself what happened. . We are all just sad and in shock.”
Singer Zemfira: Mariupol is calling
Yuri Shevchuk’s voice is not the only one resonating on the Russian music scene.
Zemfira, the country’s enigmatic rock queen (who, by the way, is also from Ufa), also spoke out clearly. “The Meat” is the name of her latest song, released as a single on May 19, 2022, in which she sings: “It’s spring in the calendar, and in reality — trenches and rockets. And further:” It’s midnight in Mariupol… I have nightmares every night. Where are we? Why are we here? I will search for the answer for the rest of my life. Pray for me, pray…”
‘The Meat’: Zemfira in his opposition to the war in Ukraine
In the music video for the song, which is reminiscent of punk band The Clash’s “London Calling” (1979) due to the end-times scenario evoked in the lyrics, expressive black, white and red designs reflect the horrors of the war and recall current images of Ukraine. The designs may have been created by Zemfira and his partner, actress Renata Litvinova.
Zemfira has been in Paris since the start of the war. In Russian state media, the singer was accused of treason and hypocrisy.
Boris Grebenchikov: the war against Ukraine is madness
“The war between Russia and Ukraine is madness, and those who started it are a disgrace to Russia,” Boris Grebenshikov’s video message succinctly says. The charismatic leader of the group Aquarium is undoubtedly the greatest idol of Russian rock, celebrated by entire generations.
Like Zemfira, Grebenshikov also does not consider concert activity in Russia possible at this time. He lives in London and gives concerts for Russian-speaking communities in Western Europe and Israel.
Russian rock idol Boris ‘Bob’ Grebenshikov during a concert in Odessa in August 2021
“When I see images of Ukrainian cities destroyed by the Russians, I often recognize parts of the concert halls where I used to play,” the musician said in an interview with the Russian-speaking Israeli channel “Channel 9”. .
He takes a pessimistic view of the situation in Russia from a historical point of view: “Think of the Roman emperor Caligula: when madmen are in power, the environment adapts. People sell their conscience to please the ruler mad.” Russia invaded Ukraine in a barbaric, gruesome and indecent way, Grebenchikov said. “When a nation tries to destroy another nation, that’s fascism.”
These are clear words, but hardly heard in Russia.
This article was originally written in German.