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VIKTOR TSOI: Russia’s first rock superstar

Viktor Tsoi and his band Kino changed Russian music forever. In death, he remains a legend.

Viktor Tsoi (Ви́ктор Цой) is a name that continues to hold meaning for millions across Russia and the wider world. In many ways, Tsoi was Russia’s first rock legend.

Tsoi was born in Leningrad with mixed Russian-Korean ancestry. After showing a great deal of natural musical talent at a young age, he began making a name for himself in Leningrad and later Moscow’s underground rock scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

As the 1980s wore on the music of Tsoi and his band Kino (КИНО) became massively popular. Tsoi’s lyrics spoke to the hopes of a generation who came of age in the 1980s a decade where uncertainty was mixed with cautious optimism for the future, a future that ultimately did not pan out as many hopes were dashed during Russia’s turbulent 1990s.

During the height of his fame, Tsoi appeared in many Soviet films, most notably The Needle (Игла) in 1988.

Tsoi’s talents for lyricism were in the great tradition of the Russian folk bards and his rock and roll edge took this genre into the modern age.

At the height of his fame Kino performed at Moscow’s Luzhniki Olympic Stadium to an audience of over 60,000 people in 1990.

Sadly, that same year, Tsoi would die in a car crash in Riga. He was only 28 at the time of his death.

To this day, memorials to Tsoi dot various music clubs and record shops throughout Russia.


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