Mikhail Borzykin is a Russian poet, composer, musician, singer and civil activist. He is probably most known as the leader of the rock band Televizor that was created during Soviet time in 1984. Speaking harshly against totalitarianism in the Soviet Union in the mid-eighties, his concerts were continuously banned because of the anti-Soviet lyrics. Mikhail and his band has not only been testing the limits of freedom in the USSR, but also in Russia, singing and talking about the Putin rule, reminiscent of Soviet times.
Perestroika Anthems remodeled
Televizor was member of The Leningrad Rock Club, which was started in 1981 when Communist authorities allowed the opening of the first legal rock-music club. Although closely surveilled by the KGB, many bands inserted veiled protest messages into their songs, which became popular perestroika anthems. Televizor's second album was released in 1987, and created a stir due to the song Your daddy is a fascist. Borzykin recently rededicated this song to Vladimir Putin.
During this career, Borzykin has performed at numerous festivals and TV shows. In 1984, he received the Leningrad Rock Festival Award for Best Lyrics, and the same award again for Best Song in 1987. He won Fuzz Magazine’s Most Important Contribution to Rock Music Award in 2004.
After Televizor’s breakthrough in 1987, Borzykin took part in protest concerts, ecological, charity and peace festivals as an organizer and performer and got several awards for the best lyrics, best performance and best album, and for his social activism.
Since 2007, Mikhail Borzykin has been participating in Marches of Dissenters and Strategy 31 protest actions against Putin’s rule. When the Russian army invaded Georgia in 2008, Mikhail took part in the Rock for Freedom Anti-War Festival in St. Petersburg. In a dramatic event on stage, Borzykin was almost arrested on the stage, but the police was prevented by the resisting crowd.
Borzykin recorded the album Deja vu in 2009, blaming Putin’s administration for going back to the hypocrisy of Soviet time, invoking a spiritual and psychological atmosphere very similar to that of the early 1980s. His songs, like Nail Down the Cellar, Stay at Home and Gazprombeiter, became popular among people who protested against Putin’s policy.
Official media outlets started a campaign against him, spreading articles containing abuses and fakes. Mikhail and his band were cut off from all public TV channels, radio and festivals controlled by the government. When he published his book Fed Up (songs, poems, interviews), containing the lyrics written in that same period, the publisher removed from the book two songs about the current situation in Russia. However, Borzykin continued writing articles and short essays for independent media outlets like Novaya Gazeta and Echo of Moscow.
The Russian government effectively censor the oppositioners via threatening in media and through FSB and police agents, making new "antiextremist" laws that make it possible to put a man to jail even for comments and reposts in social networks, and cut them off tv, radio, concerts etc. , says Borzykin.
In 2012, Mikhail Borzykin arranged FREE PUSSY RIOT charity festival in St. Petersburg to support the girls from the Russian punk band and all political prisoners in Russia. Among the participants were Televizor and several famous Russian musicians and bands, and the Pussy Riot's lawyers. Borzykin was immediately put on The List of Open Enemies Of Orthodoxy and The List of Enemies and Destroyers of Russian Culture by social patriotic organizations, and received constant threats via Internet.
Mikhail Borzykin and his band Televizor has recorded 12 albums. The latest album, Ihtiozaurus, was released in Russia in 2016. With the song Forgive Us, Ukraine, a reaction against Russia’s aggression in Ukraine following Euromaidan and the annexation of Crimea, new accusations and threats against Borzykin was raised. He found himself in a list of so-called betrayers of Russia.
I applied for a residency, a safe haven, with the ICORN programme to have the opportunity to indulge in the creation of poetry and music without risking constant censorship and harassment. During my time in Sandviken, I hope to be able to do readings and concerts, also together with other Swedish writers and musicians, says Mikhail Borzykin.
Sandviken municipality has a long tradition of investing in culture, and there are plenty of successful authors, musicians and other artists in the city. Sandviken can offer our guest both creative cultural networks and different venues for appearances, says Ulf Gillström, chairman of the Culture and Leisure Board.
We look very much forward to working with Mikhail, and hope that our work with freedom of expression, democracy and human rights will be further strengthened with the presence and work of Mikhail, continues coordinator of the ICORN programme in Sandviken, Karin Forsgren Anderung.
From Sandviken with love
In June 2015, the City Council of Sandviken, Sweden, decided that the municipality should join the network of cities of refuge to protect and promote persecuted writers and artists. In 2016, Sandviken Municipality became a member of ICORN, and in March 2017, the city welcomed their first ICORN writer-in-residence, Mikhail Borzykin.
They held a press conference at 11 am on Friday 21 April at Sandviken Kulturcentrum, in the presence of Mikhail Borzykin, Ulf Gillström, Chairman of Sandviken’s Culture and Leisure Board, and coordinator of the ICORN programme in Sandviken, Karin Forsgren Anderung.
In the Guardian 2009: Banned in the USSR: How Russian rock bands are being censored