In many ways Russian rock is special, with lyrics plays a far larger role than in Western rock music. Back in Soviet times rock was the only medium not under complete state control and rock musicians have long played a prominent role in Russian politics. Russia's rock musicians have always had struggled against an oppressive state and one of the rock’s functions before perestroika seen as that of assisting a civic awakening. During Perestroika, rock concerts helped the Soviet authorities, as it was an inspiring sign that rockers are no longer subjected to intimidation, which was a proof that democratic reforms had been introduced. One of the most celebrated Russian rockers, the poet bard of the democratic opposition Yuri Shevchuk is well-known for speaking truth to power, and praised for consistently producing work that is moving and powerful, and not agitprop. His songs’ lyrics are the way of literature, sung in the style of rock. But rock critics propelled him to rock's pantheon largely because of his social activism and protest sentiment heard in his songs. Shevchuk, who had previously given concerts in Chechnya and in Yugoslavia to protest the 1999 NATO bombings there, refused to take part in the pro-Yeltsin concerts, still harshly rails against the establishment, berating prime minister at a last year televised charity luncheon and advocates the democracy in his country.
In the early days Shevchuk created one of his best songs Ленинград, trying to piece together the history of the city. The song is still widely popular today. His unique poetic style with political motifs heavily laden with imagery makes it difficult to get clear translations of his words, but there is no need to catch all the words. As for general understanding I provide the gist of what was being sung.
+1, 0, +2, почернела зима, Расцветает январь язвой неба, ха-ха! С юга ветер приполз, неспособный на бег, Пожирает, дохляк, пересоленный снег. А за ним, как чума - Весна. Ох-ха-ха-ха! А на Невский слетелася стая сапог, А на Невском такая стоит кутерьма, А над Невским в глазок наблюдает тюрьма, Состоящая из одиноких мужчин, Не нашедших причин дарового тепла. Непонятна весьма - Весна. Эх-ха-ха-ха! А в каналах вода отражает мосты И обрывы дворцов, и колонны лесов, И стога куполов, и курятник-киоск, Раздающий за так связки вяленых роз. А культура, вспотев в целофане дождей, Объявляет для всех Ночи Белых Ножей, И боимся все мы, что дойдям до войны... Виновата она - Весна. Ох-ха-ха-ха! Эй, Ленинград, Петербург, Петроградище, Марсово пастбище, Зимнее кладбище. Отпрыск России, на мать не похожий, Бледный, худой, евроглазый прохожий. Герр Ленинград, до пупа затоваренный, Жареный, пареный, дареный, краденый. Мсье Ленинград, революцией меченный, Мебель паливший, дом перекалеченный. С окнами, бабками, львами, титанами, Липами, сфинксами, медью, Аврорами. Сэр Ленинград, Вы теплом избалованы, Вы в январе уже перецелованы. Жадной весной ваши с ней откровения Вскрыли мне вены тоски и сомнения. Пан Ленинград, я влюбился без памяти В Ваши стальные глаза... Напои допьяна - Весна. Ах-ха-ха-ха! + 1°, 0°, + 2° - the Winter blackened; January is blooming like a sore in the sky, (HA-HA!) Wind crawled from the South, unable to run - It scavenges on the dead and over-salted snow. And behind him like a plague - this Spring! Behind him like a plague - this Spring! Behind him like a plague - this Spring! Behind him like a plague - Oh-ha-ha! A swarm of boots gathered round Nevsky Such a mess stands on the Nevsky… The prison watches out the peep-hole on the Nevky, - It consists out of lonely men, Who didn't find a reason for such granted warmth. Quite inapprehensible is she, this Spring! Quite inapprehensible is she, this Spring! Quite inapprehensible is she, this Spring! Quite inapprehensible is she - Oh-ha-ha! Water in the canals reflects the bridges, The peaks of the palaces, forests of columns, Stacks of cupolas, and the hen-house of kiosks That give away bundles of dehydrated roses for free. Eh, the Culture, - sweaty in the cellophane of rains, Declares for all the Nights of White Knives! And we're all afraid of the war. It's all her fault, this Spring! It's all her fault, this Spring! It's all her fault, this Spring! It's all her fault - Oh-ha-ha! Eh, Leningrad, you Saint Petersburg, Peter's city - Mars' pasture, Winter's graveyard. Child of Russia, but you don't look like your mother - You're a pale, thin, Europe-eyed individual! "Herr" Leningrad, bloated with "products" - Roasted, steamed, granted, stolen. "Monsieur" Leningrad, with a revolutionary tag, With burned furniture and crippled houses: Windows, ladies, lions, titans, Lindens, sphinxes, copper, and Auroras! "Sir" Leningrad, you're spoiled with affection - Already in January you've been excessively kissed! With you greedy Spring and it's apocalypses You cut open my veins of sorrow and doubt. Eh, "Pan" Leningrad, I fell hopelessly in love With your eyes of steel. Let's drink to the end, this Spring! Let's drink to the end, this Spring! Let's drink to the end, this Spring! Let's drink to the end - Oh-ha-ha-HA! [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KR2xUwJOOu0]