Commemorating Vladimir Vysotsky - Russia's best-loved bard poet
His records used to be swapped under the counter in the days of the Soviet Union. Today, more than 30 years since his death in 1980, Vladimir Vysotsky continues to draw crowds in Moscow. Russia Beynd the Headlinesmet his son and several other Russian performers at the Jan. 19 tribute concert at Crocus City Hall, which commemorated what would have been his 75th birthday. They talk about their memories of this timeless icon and the legacy he left.
“When people ask my father what he wanted most, he would always reply: ‘I want people to remember me.’” Nikita Vysotsky did not know his father well, since he divorced and remarried the French actress Marina Vlady in 1969. Still, he has honored his father’s wishes to the letter. For what would have been his father’s 75th birthday, Nikita has brought together a sprinkling of famous performers to sing, reminisce and revive Vysotsky’s art on stage at Crocus City Hall.
Vladimir Vysotsky made an appearance, speaking on a huge screen that dominated the Hall. Of his exceptional voice he recalled: “When I recited poetry at the age of six, my parents’ friends said that I had the voice of a real drunkard. That’s how it has always been, I never forced it. My imitators had quite a difficult task...”
He also recalled the first time he made a recording, when he was still an actor at the Taganka Theatre in Moscow: “I was with a group of performer friends and one of them wanted to record me. So we did. Then the cassette was passed around.” Vysotsky’s songs were never officially permitted in the Soviet Union; he was only recognized officially as a theatre and cinema actor.
On stage, wearing a pullover, he gave a revolutionary performance of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” and he made a lasting impression on the big screen with “The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed” (1979).
In Russia, history is too important to leave to the historians. Great novelists must show how people actually lived through events and reveal their moral significance. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn explained in his 1970 Nobel Prize lecture, literature transmits “condensed and irrefutable human experience” in a form that “defies distortion and falsehood. Thus literature . . . preserves and protects a nation’s soul.”
The latest Solzhenitsyn book to appear in English, March 1917, focuses on the great turning point of Russian, indeed world, history: the Russian Revolution.1 Just a century ago, that upheaval and the Bolshevik coup eight months later ushered in something entirely new and uniquely horrible. Totalitarianism, as invented by Lenin and developed by Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and others, aspired to control every aspect of life, to redesign the earth and to remake the human soul. As a result, the environment suffered unequaled devastation and tens of millions of lives were lost in t…