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      (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Leningrad 80s • No.115 >>

Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection • Harvard University

USA-CCCP. Points of Contact.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov – Catherine Mannick
Correspondence 1979 – 1990

Perestroika Emissaries

The correspondence between Mannick and Kozlov covers not only a remarkably long period of time, but a period which was in itself remarkable, the pre-perestroika and perestroika years, that is, the first and second halves of the 1980s, respectively. Between October 1986 and January 1990, Mannick was not able to visit the Soviet Union herself, and Kozlov tried to keep her updated about some of the changes that affected his personal life, his activities as an artist, the international promotion of his art, but also society as a whole. Kozlov’s letters illustrate how Gorbachev’s economic and other reforms – perestroika – gradually led to a more liberal state policy granting individual initiative and freedom of expression – “glasnost”, literally “openness”. Mannick, on her part, wrote how perestroika in general and the Leningrad music scene in particular left an impact on the cultural life of her country.  

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov PERESTROYKA Ink on paper, 84 x 53 cm, 1985 or slightly later E-E archival number: E-E-185007

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
PERESTROYKA
Ink on paper, 84 x 53 cm, 1985 or slightly later

E-E archival number: E-E-185007



During the Cold War, the general knowledge about the other side was rather superficial and full of clichés, but there was a difference. While Soviet citizens never lost interest in Western culture and intellectual and artistic circles were purposefully striving for the latest information, conversely, Soviet culture was perceived in the West as nothing much worth of interest, with the exception of the Bolshoi Theatre ballet as a positive example and dissident literature, such as Solzhenitsyn’s acclaimed Gulag Archipelago, revealing the negative side of communism. Accordingly, some few examples of Soviet pop art, like that of Moscow conceptualists and New York residents Komar and Melamid, were embraced as an ironic statement on Soviet history.

After Mikhail Gorbachev’s appointment as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985 and the beginning of his policy of perestroika, interest in the life of ordinary Soviet people grew dramatically. With Gorbachev’s visits abroad, the West experienced a kind of “Gorby Fever”, as Mannick wrote in Letter 41 from December 1987 – not least thanks to his elegant and charming wife Raisa, whose cosmopolitan appeal stood in plain contrast to the stereotype of the graceless, grandmotherly Soviet woman prevailing in capitalist countries.

In Kozlov’s letters, the first signs of changes appear in December 1986 with a New Artists exhibition in Moscow “in the main exhibition hall” (Letter M). The Moscow exhibition could be identified as “The Laboratory – Young Artists from Leningrad” at the Kuznetsky Most premises of the Moscow Union of Artists. This is interesting insofar, as none of the New Artists was a union member – as “unofficial” artists they were denied membership. Having their works shown by the Moscow Union of Artists was one step towards official recognition.[1] The following five letters, preserved from the period of 1987 to 1990, show how individual freedom steadily progressed. In Letter P, written in March 1989, Kozlov compiled a slightly satirical list of twenty-six items he called “hot news”, mixing personal experiences and general expectations related to recent political and economic shifts:

    ✮ Solar activity began to affect me very strongly. I haven’t been able sleep for days.
    ✮ The situation in grocery stores has become even worse, but there are rumours that it will become (even) better.
    ✮ Almost everything is said and written about history. Stalin is a murderer and an enemy, Khrushchev is a good fellow, Brezhnev is a fool, Gorbachev is a revolutionary and the hope of the whole world. (Letter P, March 1989)

Thrilled by these memorable occurrences, Mannick enthusiastically answers:

    I miss you; I miss Russia - and I so want to see with my own eyes all that is happening in the country of Glasnost and Perestroika. Your Gorbachev is great - he is the No. 1 person of the century! I'm so happy that so many opportunities have opened up for you – it’s high time that we here in the West had the opportunity to enjoy your art. Welcome to the USA! Every day I read in the newspapers, I hear on television about the changes in the USSR.  (Letter 46, April 1989).

Mannick’s expectations to see her friend’s art in the USA, besides expressing her personal feelings, weren’t unfounded at all. In the Soviet Union, artists and musicians benefitted from the new rapprochement at an early stage, since bilateral agreements and summits, like the American/Soviet Geneva Summit from November 1985, opened new opportunities for cultural contacts and projects.

What is more, Leningrad’s “unofficial” artists benefitted doubly from perestroika – because of their personal international contacts and because foreign partners were looking for creative projects “off the beaten track”. This was the case of Stockholm’s municipal gallery Kulturhuset. Based on the Swedish-Soviet programme on cooperation in the field of culture, science and education, signed in Moscow on 17 December 1986, Stockholm’s cultural administration initiated a festival of Leningrad underground culture with a large New Artists exhibition Kozlov mentioned in Letter N from autumn 1987:

    Yes, I forgot to tell you, soon we will have another exhibition in Sweden, Stockholm, and negotiations are underway with France and England. (Letter N, autumn 1987)

The Kulturhuset had to coordinate the work of numerous official partners – the Soviet Ministry of Culture, Swedish Institute, Soviet Embassy (Stockholm), Leningrad Komsomol, and the Swedish General Consulate (Leningrad). This was in itself a highly complicated task, but it also had to consider the at times anarchical behaviour of artists and musicians, especially regarding the selection of paintings. As a result, The New from Leningrad, postponed several times, eventually opened in August 1988 with those works participants decided to bring along more >>. Paradoxically, the main work of the exhibition, Kozlov’s large portrait of Timur Novikov, “Timur on Horseback”, featured on the catalogue cover and posters, was not among them more >>.

Kulturhuset exhibition poster with E-E Kozlov's painting Тимур на коне / Timur on Horseback from 1985, upper part. The H. Fobo & E-E Kozlov Collection Kulturhuset Press relase with the New Artists exhibtion logotype. The line-up of artists has only thirteen names, missing out Ivan Sotnikov's name. Courtesy Kulturhuset archive

Kulturhuset exhibition poster with E-E Kozlov's painting
Тимур на коне / Timur on Horseback from 1985, upper part.
The H. Fobo & E-E Kozlov Collection more >>
Kulturhuset Press relase with the New Artists exhibtion logotype. The line-up of artists has only thirteen names, missing out Ivan Sotnikov's name.
Courtesy Kulturhuset archive




At the same time, private endeavours were also bearing fruit. Los Angeles-based Joanna Stingray gave a striking example of – risky – individual entrepreneurship outside an institutional framework. In 1986, with tapes she had smuggled across the border, she released the album “Red Wave”, a compilation with music by four Leningrad rock bands – Aquarium, Alisa, Strange Games, and Kino (see Letter N, autumn 1987).

JOANNA STINGRAY PRESENTS: RED WAVE. 4 UNDERGROUND BANDS FROM THE USSR. Side A: AQUARIUM; Side B: KINO; Side C: ALISA; Side D: STRANGE GAMES. USA, Big Time Records, 1986 In 1986, Joanna Stingray released the first vinyl album of independent Leningrad rock groups on Big Time Records, Los Angeles more >>; a copy of the Red Wave album is in the Davis Center Special Collection.

JOANNA STINGRAY PRESENTS: RED WAVE. 4 UNDERGROUND BANDS FROM THE USSR.
Side A: AQUARIUM; Side B: KINO; Side C: ALISA; Side D: STRANGE GAMES. USA, Big Time Records, 1986
In
1986, Joanna Stingray released the first vinyl album of independent Leningrad rock groups on Big Time Records, Los Angeles more >>; a copy of the Red Wave album is in the Davis Center Special Collection.



The troubles this brought Stingray demonstrate that perestroika was a slow and contradictory process. In the Soviet Union, none of these bands had been allowed to record on vinyl previously, and the Soviet authorities reprimanded Stingray by denying her a visa for her marriage to “Red Wave” musician Yury Kasparyan,[2] planned for April 1987. Stingray, who had been a regular visitor to Leningrad since 1984, won the support of high-ranking American politicians who put her case on the agenda in bilateral talks. After a long and determined fight, she was finally able to celebrate her wedding in Leningrad in November 1987.[3] Mannick had briefly met Stingray during her October 1986 visit to Leningrad and asked Kozlov whether he attended the wedding (Letter 41, December 1987). Kozlov attended the wedding dinner, of which he gave an impressive report:

    There was the whole world representing "unofficial" art; the consular corps; artists came specially from England and France, and, probably, from other countries. There were a lot of people and it was simply impossible to talk to everyone — about 200 people. Joanna brought her manager and cameraman (he shot a special film about her, about the culture of Leningrad, artists, musicians, about the wedding and, in general, about her stay in the USSR). Artists gave them their paintings and drawings. (Letter O, beginning of 1988)

Joanna Stingray with two paintings she recieved as wedding gifts. On the wall: America (1987) by (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Right: British artist Andrew Logan Courtesy Joanna Stingray, 1987

Joanna Stingray with two paintings she recieved as wedding gifts. On the wall:
America (1987) by (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Right: British artist Andrew Logan
Courtesy Joanna Stingray, 1987



Kozlov’s wedding gift to the American-Russian couple, a large work on paper entitled “America”, appears in pictures taken at the restaurant. In 1988 and 1989, Stingray organised several exhibitions with works by her Leningrad artist friends in Los Angeles and New York, and in 1989, Kozlov drew her portrait, where she is seen wearing a space helmet. In this way, he acknowledged her role for the Leningrad art and music scene as that of a visitor from outer space.

Understandably, the Soviet government was not particularly keen to see itself represented in the West by “underground” culture and continued sending the “classics”. Mannick notes the Kirov ballet performing Swan Lake and Nikita Mikhalkov’s film “Dark Eyes” (Letter 41, December 1987[4]), followed by “a big group of Soviet artists in Boston in April – Maya Plisetskaya, Rodion Shchedrin, dancers, musicians, even mimes” (Letter 43, May? 1988). Rodion Shchedrin was a composer and the husband of world famous Bolshoi dancer Maya Plisetskaya, for whom he often wrote the score of her ballets. Plisetskaya’s tour through the United States was one of many since 1959.

What may appear as genuine Soviet productions were, however, at least in part co-productions with the West. “Dark Eyes”, based on Chekhov’s novellas, was a Soviet-Italian film starring Yelena Safonova and Marcello Mastroanni. Ballet dancer Maya Plisetskaya, the glamorous Soviet superstar, was deeply inserted in European culture.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Diary III, pp 16, 17, beginning of 1982.  Page 17, top: Пьер Карден  /Фр./. Костюмы к балету «Чайка». 1982 г. / Муз. Р. Щедрина / Нина Заречная – М. Плисецкая (Pierre Cardin / France/. Costumes for the ballet Chaika [The Seagull], 1982.[5] Music R. Shchedrin / Nina Zavernaya – M Plisetskaya more >> Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection • Harvard University

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Diary III, pp 16, 17, beginning of 1982.

Page 17, top: Пьер Карден  /Фр./. Костюмы к балету «Чайка». 1982 г. / Муз. Р. Щедрина / Нина Заречная – М. Плисецкая
(Pierre Cardin / France/. Costumes for the ballet Chaika [The Seagull], 1982.[5] Music R. Shchedrin / Nina Zavernaya – M Plisetskaya
more >>
Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection • Harvard University




Through her passion for dance, she worked with international choreographers and costumes designers, which impressed Evgenij Kozlov. In 1982, he noted in his diary: Пьер Карден  /Фр./. Костюмы к балету «Чайка». 1982 г. / Муз. Р. Щедрина / Нина Заречная – М. Плисецкая (Pierre Cardin / France/. Costumes for the ballet Chaika [The Seagull], 1982.[5] Music R. Shchedrin / Nina Zavernaya – M Plisetskaya; Diary III, p. 3-17).

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Leningrad artists and musicians backstage From Left to right: Boris Grebenshikov (Aquarium), Timur Novikov (New Artists), Georgy Guryanov (Kino), Konstantin Kinchev (Alisa). Leningrad, March / April 1985. New print, 2000  E-E archival number: E-E-pho-AF33-np

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Leningrad artists and musicians backstage
From Left to right: Boris Grebenshikov (Aquarium), Timur Novikov (New Artists), Georgy Guryanov (Kino), Konstantin Kinchev (Alisa). Leningrad, March / April 1985.
New print, 2000

E-E archival number: E-E-pho-AF33-np



Starting in 1988, Leningrad’s “new wave” culture made it to the States, too. Mannick went to see Взломщик / Vzlomshchik (The Burglar, 1987), with Konstantin Kinchev, lead singer of Alisa – one of the “Red Wave” bands – in the main role. She also mentions “Assa”, produced the same year, another art-house film featuring Leningrad artists and musicians, although the setting is in Yalta. “Assa” became the cult film of the perestroika period, in the main thanks to Kino frontman Viktor Tsoy’s performance of his song “Мы ждём перемен” / We are waiting for changes. (See Letter N, part 2)

Watching “Vzlomshchik”, Mannick is feeling nostalgic:

    The film wasn't bad, but for me the most interesting thing was to see clips from the concerts of Leningrad New Wave bands. […]? I looked for the New Composers (and you, as well!) in the film but I didn't find them. I liked the band I mentioned because, to our Western ears, their music is truly new, not an imitation of Western bands. What do you think about this? I remember that you wrote to me about another new film, “Assa.” They are already writing about this film in our newspapers. I'm waiting for it with great anticipation. It's not just that these films show the most new and interesting movements in contemporary Soviet culture, but, also, they show, in little bits, your current surroundings. At least that's how it seems to me. Maybe this is “neorealism” but when I saw “Vzlomshchik” and the scenes in Leningrad, the streets and the apartments, I felt such nostalgia. I sought places that were close to me. (Letter 44, August 1988)

The New Composers Valery Alakhov and Igor Verichev were Kozlov’s close friends, and Mannick had met them during her last visit to Leningrad in October 1986. Kozlov kept her updated about their record with Sergey Kuryokhin “Popular Mechanics. Insect Culture”, for which he had shot the cover photo. It was released in Liverpool in 1987 (Letter N, part 1), to which she responded

    That record of Kuryokhin, which you wrote about, I haven't yet seen in America, but it should be available for sale soon. […]
    I am waiting for the sale of Soviet music - every time I'm in the record store I look for the “New Composers”! I would very much like to hear more of their music. (Letter 41, December 1987)

With perestroika, the harsh restrictions on granting Soviet citizens exit visas (exit permits) for travels abroad were gradually softened, and Leningrad artists and musicians started travelling to the US. Kuryokhin toured the States in autumn 1988 – without the New Composers – but it was Boris Grebenshikov, founder the legendary band Aquarium in 1972 (see Letter I, spring 1986) and yet another “Red Wave” participant, who caught Mannick’s attention. Grebenshikov had the support of Joanna Stingray; through Stingray, he met David Bowie in New York in December 1987.[6]

In 1988, Grebenshikov produced his album “Radio Silence” with a western label, with most songs sung in English. Shortly after it was released in the US in June 1989, he promoted it the David Letterman show.[7]

CBS promo picture from 15 April, 1989, announcing the release of Boris Grebenshikov's album Radio Silence on 13 June, 1989, as ‘the first American-produced album ever released by a Russian pop artist’. The picture with musicians from Radio Silence (with the exception of Iggy Pop) was taken after Grebenshikov's New York concert. From left to right: Iggy Pop, Siobahn Stewart (ex-Bananarama), Boris Grebenshikov, Annie Lenox (Eurythmics), David Stewart (Eurythmics), Alexander Titov (Aquarium). Courtesy Alexis Ipatovtsev, Boris Grebenshikov‘s media manager.

CBS promo picture from 15 April, 1989, announcing the release of Boris Grebenshikov's album Radio Silence on 13 June, 1989, as ‘the first American-produced album ever released by a Russian pop artist’.

The picture with musicians from Radio Silence (with the exception of Iggy Pop) was taken after Grebenshikov's New York concert.

From left to right: Iggy Pop, Siobahn Stewart (ex-Bananarama), Boris Grebenshikov, Annie Lenox (Eurythmics), David Stewart (Eurythmics), Alexander Titov (Aquarium).
Courtesy Alexis Ipatovtsev, Boris Grebenshikov‘s media manager
more >> and more >>.




 Mannick mentions Grebenshikov twice:

    On the radio, they’re playing Grebenshikov’s new album (in English) called “Radio Silence.” (Letter 47, June 1989)

    I am simply amazed at all the new contacts with the USSR that have developed here recently. Imagine, a few days ago in Boston there was a concert by Grebenshikov, on the radio they are playing Zvuki Mu,[8] and there is a festival of “glasnost’ cinema” in the movie theaters. (Letter 48, August 1989)

Kozlov, for his part, enjoyed the increased offer of western productions. Letter N is especially detailed in this respect, with a reference to a Moscow film festival (“Ragtime” “All that Jazz” etc), screenings at the local cinema (Milos Forman’s" “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest”, “Mozart”), an exhibition (Chagall) and concerts of American musicians. Among the latter was singer Billy Joel. To promote his concert, Joel was a guest at the highly popular TV-broadcast “Musical Ring”, where performances alternated with questions by the audience. Kozlov told Mannick of his impressions:

    Usually musicians, Soviet musicians, try to play more music in order to get fewer punches / questions from listeners, because the questions may be rather sharp, but Joel did the opposite. At the very beginning, he said that he prefers to talk more than sing and that songs are money – and this was a strong blow to the listeners; we are not used to be treated in such a way. He had a great musical fight, but the funniest thing for me was when in the midst of audience questions, when everyone had gotten the hang of it and wanted to talk to him more and more, he suddenly stood up and said that his doctor and his manager advised him to go rest and stop this performance. No one expected this here – this cunning blow from his side was O.K., I even screamed: "Hurrah!“. (Letter N, autumn 1987)

It cannot be excluded that Kozlov exaggerated Joel’s statements to play with the stereotype of American money making. But in the Soviet Union, to openly market a cultural product for one’s own benefit was blatant disregard of the rules of public conduct. Obviously, Kozlov sided with Joel and his straightforwardness.

With perestroika, the Law of Supply and Demand entered the field of culture. To establish the monetary equivalent for a cultural product was a question Kozlov had to solve for his own art. The final chapter of the introduction shows how he tried to find an answer.

Hannelore Fobo, 8 April 2024



[1] On the other hand, the exhibition had no direct reference to the group’s name, and it is not known whether it included official artists, too.

[2] Kasparyan was the lead guitarist of the band Kino which Kozlov featured with his LP cover for the band’s third studio album “Nachalnik Kamchatki”, 1984. See Letter G, September 1984.

[3] Joanna Stingray & Madison Stingray. Red Wave: an American in the Soviet Music Underground, Los Angeles, CA; DoppelHouse Press, 2020. For detailed information, see Letter O, beginning of 1988.

[4] Mannick writes, “I personally prefer ‘Unfinished piece …’ but in the West this film was very well received.”

[5] According to Wikipedia, the Bolshoi Theatre premiere took place in 1980. External link >>

[6] In Leningrad, Grebenshikov often performed with Sergey Kuryokhin’s Pop Mekhanika concerts and can be seen in Kozlov’s pictures documenting these performances. In the Davis Center Special Collection there are several pictures from the December 1985 Happy New Year concert at the Leningrad Rock club; one of them is with Boris Grebenshikov. See: Leningrad Artists and Musicians in E-E Kozlov's Pictures more >>.

[7] Alexis Ipatovtsev about Aquarium's Leningrad Period. An interview with Hannelore Fobo. Part 2: Aquarium's Archive. 31 March 2019. Published 8 May, 2019 more >>.
About ”Radio Silence” and Boris Grebenshikov in America see also: Hannelore Fobo: After Red Wave. 2019 more >>.

[8] In 1989, Zvuki Mu, a popular Moscow rock band, toured the US with concerts in New York, Washington, Boston and other cities. Russian Wikipedia, External link >>.




USA-CCCP. Points of Contact.
Part 1: Introduction
Synopsis • Preliminary Remarks
1. From Leningrad to Boston and Back
2. Let’s Talk About Art. New Wave, New Artists, and B(L)ack art.
3. Perestroika Emissaries
4. The End of Censorship
5. “It Seems I Need a Manager.” The Impact of Getting Popular
6. Leningrad Artists and Musicians in E-E Kozlov's Pictures
— The River of Forgetfulness, 1988 —
Part 2: Letters
Letter A (1979) – Halloween
Letter B (1980) – To Be at Peace with Yourself
Letter C (1980) – Harlequin
Pictures 1981 – Flat Exhibitions / Letopis ("Chronicle”)
Letter D (1982) – The Sea and the Countryside
Letter E (1983) – Saigon
Letter F (1983) – Moscow
Letter G (1984) – New Wave
Letter H (1985) – New Composers
Letter I (1986) – Happy New Year at the Leningrad Rock Club
Letter J (1986) – CCCP-USA
Letter K (1986) – The Price of Art
Letter L (1986) – B (L)ack art • PoPs from the USSSR
Letter M (1986) – A Taste for Colours
Letter N (1987) – Part 1: Changes and Challenges
Letter N (1987) – Part 2: ASSA
Letter O (1988) – Joanna Stingray's Wedding
Letter P (1989) – Perestroika Hot News
Letter Q (1989) – Russkoee Polee • The Russian Field
Letter R (1990) – New Classicals
Epilogue: USA-CCCP. Points of Contact (Forthcoming)

see also
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Catherine Mannick, and Hannelore Fobo papers, 1979-2022 (inclusive)
Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection Harvard University >>

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Published 9 April 2024
Last updated 9 July 2024