(Artemy Troitsky and Labor South's Joe Atkins)
Vladimir Putin’s Russia is “getting similar to the Stalinist period” in Russia’s history, and “the Stalinist period was a nightmare,” dissident Russian journalist and pioneer rock music writer and promoter Artemy Troitsky told students at the University of Mississippi this week.
The 67-year-old Troitsky, a sharp critic of the Putin regime whose views have forced him into exile in Tallinn, Estonia, came to Oxford, Mississippi, to visit friends and spoke at my Media History class at Farley Hall on the University of Mississippi campus Thursday, August 25.
The war in Ukraine that began this February “is a huge catastrophe to Ukraine but also for Russia,” Troitsky told students and faculty. “Russia has become a pariah state. In the Soviet Union we had several phases—Lenin, Stalin, Brezhnev, Gorbachev. During the Cold War, there was at least a degree of respect (for the Soviet Union as a nation), an enemy, yes, but not a stray dog, a bandit.”
Troitsky is a legendary writer and commentator whose efforts to promote rock music in the 1970s made him Russia’s premier music writer and promoter. He led discos at Moscow State University in the early 1970s, played guitar with the rock ban Zvuki Mu, co-founded the label General Records. Over the years he has interviewed musicians such as Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, and David Bowie.
worldwide for his political views as well as his music writing, he is the author of
the classic Back in the USSR: The True
Story of Rock in Russia (1988) and other books.
Early on, authorities largely ignored rock music as merely Western decadence. Later, as it grew in popularity in Russia, it became more controversial and under the watchful eyes of the powerful.
However, it is mostly Troitsky’s political views that have gotten him into trouble. After several lawsuits were filed against him in 2011, musicians helped organize a benefit concert. Twenty-three musicians joined to record an album titled For Troitsky in his honor.
Today, he lectures in Estonia, Finland, England, and other countries, and has a music program on Radio Liberty as well as a videoblog.
“I’m absolutely sure Ukraine is going to win the war,” he said. “They are hugely motivated. The question is what will happen afterward. Russia cannot win against the whole free world.” However, he added, “Russia will not be occupied.”
In my discussions with Troitsky, I told him my own views of
the war and the complicity of the United States and NATO in starting the war—the
expansion of NATO to Russia’s very borders, the U.S. role in the 2014 coup d’état
in Ukraine that ultimately led to the pro-Western leadership of Volodymyr
Zelensky, Zelensky’s failure to abide by the Minsk Agreement that would have
allowed autonomy in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine and eased Russian
concerns about an anti-Russian military buildup there. Furthermore, I don't believe Ukraine will win this war. There needs to be a negotiated peace.
As Labor South readers know, I’m also concerned about Zelensky’s corruption, the right-wing elements in his regime that recently gutted worker rights in Ukraine. I have no illusions about Putin, however. Putin has gutted press freedom in his country and silenced or jailed his political critics. In the first eight years of his two-decade rule, some 13 journalists were murdered in Russia under mysterious circumstances. These include the crusading Putin critic Anna Politkovskaya, a former colleague of Troitsky’s at the Novaya Gazeta.
“You are a dissident in your country, and I am a dissident in my country,” I told Troitsky.
Troitsky looked at me with a silent nod, and we shook hands.