MOSCOW, RUSSIA – Day 2
The young, well dressed guy flips his wallet out to display an official looking card ever so briefly. I don’t get a chance to see what is written on it and even if I could, it’s in Russian Cyrillic alphabet. Unless it says BAP (Bar), then I’m screwed.
Luckily, Maria, the young female punk rocker I had come to interview, is with me and she immediately jumps in to explain to the guy something in Russian.
I start to put away my video equipment, it was a wrap anyway. Voices seem to be getting strained as they converse back and forth and now I’m worried that my innocent looking enough, Prosumer (hybrid pro consumer) video camera could be confiscated or worse.
I don’t remember much of the officer… except that he needed to blow his nose. There was a stream of snot coming out of his left nostril facing me that in the absence of understanding the conversation between he and Maria, I was involuntarily focused on.
He didn’t seem aware of this trail of mucus dangerously approaching his mouth. Should I intervene?
To my relief he stormed off and Maria suggest very quietly, “Lets go”. No arguments from me, I ask “what was that about?”, pretty sure I already knew the answer.
“I’ll tell you after we get out of here” is Maria’s response.
Maria and I find a warm place to grab some tea and dumplings and she tells me the guy was with the Moscow undercover police and he wanted to know what we were videotaping. No surprise there.
When she told him I was a tourist (we had already worked on that story in case such an inquiry was made) he very appropriately asked “what about the microphone and audio equipment?” to which Maria responded “Oh it’s very windy out here and the microphone was necessary for the camera to pick up what I was saying about the history of Red Square”.
Wow, smart girl! Quick on her feet. We didn’t really have that answer planned out and what better answer than she was doing her patriotic duty showing this naive American the history and glory of this great country.
All of this is sort of dramatic because it wasn’t too far from the truth. I am after all, officially a tourist and the microphone was necessary to hear what Maria had to say, but she wasn’t simply detailing to me the history of Red Square. She was instead answering some questions about the punk music scene in Moscow and Russia.
Somehow I don’t think the truth would have worked as well so better to tell a white, (or is it red), lie.
Maria is a young, and as you can plainly tell, very intelligent punk rock fan. She told me in our interview that she got into punk as a child listening to music from her dad, also a punk fan. He listened to bands like the “Sex Pistols” and the “Dead Kennedys” and passed the love of that music down to her.
Maria likes those bands as well and also mentioned liking the “Casualties” as well as local Moscow punk bands “Private Radio” (one of her favorites) and ska band “Distemper”.
She tried to arrange an interview with Private Radio for me before I was to leave Moscow but unfortunately it seems the guys are broken up at the moment. I’m going to check out their music when I get back to the U.S. because I have a feeling about Maria’s musical tastes.
Having already established Maria is smart and quick on her feet, it might not surprise you to find that she is a student studying cinematography with an interest in animation and is currently working on some short cartoons.
Maria offered some insight into the Moscow punk scene and indicated discrimination against punks was not that big of a deal in Moscow, because it is after all a city of 10 million people and there seems to be plenty of self expression all around. Indeed, I saw plenty of Goths and metal heads, a couple of gay couples and even two girls full on making out the night before.
She did indicate that when she wore her hair dyed and shaved on one side in a little more radical fashion her teachers would sometimes treat her funny and that she felt police might target her in a group setting.
I guess that experience came in handy during her svelte handling of our little matter with the authorities a few minutes later.
As far as fascist in Moscow, she did admit there have been problems in the past at punk shows with fascist and anti-fascist sometimes coming to blows, but she said that most shows were drama free and that the punks and traditional skinheads were united against the fascist who tend to be less educated and live in the suburbs of Moscow.
Having read some stories in the media, I was on the lookout for fascist propaganda and such in both Moscow and St. Petersburg and have yet to see any, though I will say there are some cultural characteristics about Russian Rockabilly that COULD leave someone who is a bit intellectually lazy to believe that racism is part of the culture. That would be wrong and I will write more about that in my next entry. It’s a pretty big subject so I want to try and get my facts as straight as possible before tackling it, so please be patient and stay tuned.
Maria says her philosophy of punk is “Freedom and always moving forward” and that her favorite thing about being a punk is the union of punks from all over the world, feeling like one big family. I could not agree more, hence the documentary “Punktology”
Maria was a pleasure to interview. She’s a true punk rocker and an artist with her hand on the pulse of the punk scene in Moscow. While I am very thankful for her hospitality, I think I’m even more thankful for her skills at dealing with authority. My camera, and I, thank her profusely!
4 thoughts on “MOSCOW: Red Square Scare”
Had a great time in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Thanks for all your help Viktor!
a trip to russia wouldn’t have been complete without a run in with the undercover cops. sweet.