What About Tomorrow?: An Oral History of Russian Punk from the Soviet Era to Pussy Riot

by Alexander Herbert

Punk arrived in Soviet Russia in 1978, spreading slowly at first through black market vinyl records and soon exploding into state-controlled performance halls, where authorities found the raucous youth movement easier to control. In fits and starts, the scene grew and flourished, always a step ahead of secret police and neo-Nazis, through glastnost, perestroika, and the end of the Cold War. Despite a few albums smuggled out of the country and released in Europe and the US, most Westerners had never heard of Russia's punk movement until Pussy Riot burst onto the international stage. This oral history takes you through four decades of the scene's evolution, from the early bands like Avtomaticheskie Udovletvoriteli (“Automatic Satisfiers,” a play on the Sex Pistols) and Naive to more contemporary bands like Distress, Ricochet, and the anti-fascist Proverochnaia Lineika (Straight Edge). From its origins in St Petersburg and Moscow to uniquely thriving punk scenes in the provincial capitals, this glimpse behind the iron curtain feels immediate, real, and more relevant than ever.