Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Articles [NAJP]

Would Running Dog Be OK?

I met Artemy Troitsky, who now seems to be Artyom Troitsky, several times in the glasnost-perestroika period of the late '80s and early '90s. He'd written two books on Russian rock that were translated into English and published by Omnibus, and got me interested enough that I wrote a column for the Voice about Russian rock, and him. He also half talked me into doing a taped dialogue book with him and attending a rock festival he was organizing in Kazakhistan, but these, fortunately, remained in the half talking stage. Troitsky was such a talker that half was plenty. Like another rock expert I knew from Eastern Europe, the academic Peter Wicke, he seemed very impressed by American food. Wicke was especially impressed because he barely ate while he had a study grant here. He didn't have much money, he told me while wolfing down everything we put on the table, and if the choice was buying books or buying food, well, that was no choice. Troitsky was more an aesthete. Once I bought him a sfogliatella at DeRobertis and he told me it was the most delicious thing he'd ever eaten in his life.

This is all very heartwarming, I hope, but what's going on now with Troitsky isn't. He did well after "Communism" fell, as you might expect, but he was only a hustler, not a thug, so smart as he was he certainly didn't get rich. Though he had his idealistic side--a concert for Chernobyl victims brought him early prominence--he was always apolitical; his sympathies were with Russia's chronically sardonic bohemian avant-garde. As he wrote early on and I quoted in the Voice: "We will never be the driving force in any political movement simply because we deeply and sincerely dislike politics." Troitsky became the first editor of the Russian version of Playboy, and after that ended settled into minor fame as Russia's most prominent music journalist. I lost track of him a decade ago.

Until a few days ago, when I found out from two stories in Britain's Independent, one news and one commentary, that he was being sued for a million rubles--about 30 grand, I think--for calling a rock star a poodle. It's odd that this is how both sides are spinning the suit, because the insulting part wasn't really the dog comparison, even though that's the claim of Vadim Samoylov of the goth band Agata Kristi (couldn't leave that out). What Troitsky said was that Samoylov was the poodle of a specific individual, Medvedev apparatchik Vladislav Surkov. Poodle? Slander! Lackey's lackey? Who could possible complain of being associated with such an august personage?

This is only one of four lawsuits recently brought against Troitsky. And before we bewail the crackdown on independent arts journalism--a real enough problem in itself, apparently, as well as a tack Troitsky is taking and more power to him--it's worth noting that Art is apolitical no longer. The news story says he had "recently become an outspoken campaigner on issues such as plans to build a motorway through a forest in the Moscow region." There's a different kind of quote about politics, too: "I am no politician but I have watched how political opposition in Russia has been neutered. There is so much frustration at the grassroots. I will not be made to shut up, I won't give in to pressure." Ain't freedom from totalitarian oppression grand?

1 Comment

By Nathan Smith on May 26, 2011 2:48 PM

It's worth noting that in addition to the million rouble fine Troitsky is also facing a two year prison sentence on a separate criminal slander charge ("rarely used", how reassuring). Grand indeed.

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