(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: exhibitions >> • Leningrad 80s >>
De Nya från Leningrad / The New from Leningrad,
Kulturhuset, Stockholm, 27 August – 25 September 1988
Text and research: Hannelore Fobo, January / February 2022
Chapter 2. Stockholm’s invitation of Leningrad artists and musicians
Because the Swedish proposal to Vasily G Zaharov, Soviet Minister of Culture, refers to the political framework of this Soviet-Swedish co-production, I will first have a look at this proposal, signed by three representatives of the city of Stockholm: Ingemar Josefsson, city councillor, as well as Hans Waldenström and Bo Sylvan from the Stockholm Cultural Administration. This document, a copy of which is at the Kulturhuset archive (see bottom of page), is undated, but looking at her archive, Sara Åkerrén could tell me more (private message from 16 January, 2022):
The signatories propose “Leningrad – Days of Culture in the House of Culture” from 22 January to March 13, 1988, as part of the Swedish-Soviet programme on cooperation in the field of culture, science and education. This programme, signed in Moscow on 17 December 1986, lasted up to 1990. In 1990, there was actually a return visit to Leningrad by a group of Swedish artists. In his article from 2020 “Turning towards the inland sea? Swedish ’soft diplomacy‘ towards the Baltic Soviet republics before independence”, Thomas Lundén sheds some light on this programme, quoting a passage from the preamble of the Swedish-Soviet programme on cooperation:
Thus, according to Lundén, the main goal of this programme for the Swedish side was to establish direct relations with the Baltic Soviet Republics, using different channels:
Considering Lundén’s argument, a festival of Leningrad artists and musicians was not the Swedish government’s first priority, but for the curatorial team of Kulturhuset, the bilateral Swedish-Soviet programme offered the possibility to directly address the Soviet government. Furthermore, the Swedish letter stresses the fact that the Stockholm Conference on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures and Disarmament in Europe (1984-1986) took place in the very building earmarked to host the festival, as it had been rebuilt to serve as a “people’s university”. While the aspect of international détente emphasises the importance of the venue, the other argument, the building’s function as a “people’s university”, cherishes a typical Soviet approach to culture, the stereotype of education for the masses.
The letter includes a list of sixteen artists and musicians to be invited (names in Swedish spelling).
• BUGAEV, Sergej Anatolievitj (Africa)
• GUTSEVITJ, Vladislav Bronislavovitj
• JUFIT, Jevgenij
• KOTELNIKOV, Oleg Jevgenijevitj
• KOZLOV, Jevgenij Valentinovitj
• NOVIKOV, Timur Petrovitj
• OVTJINNIKOV, Vadim Jevgenijevitj
• SAVTJENKOV, Inal Inalovitj
• SOTNIKOV, Ivan Jurijevitj
Musicians from POP MECHANIKA
• KURJOCHIN, Sergej Anatolievitj
• GARKUSHA, Oleg
• GURJANOV, Georgij Konstantinovitj
• KASPARJAN, Jurij Dmitrevitj
• LETOV, Sergej
• TICHOMIROV, Igor Rubinovitj
• TSOJ, Viktor Robertovitj
Most participants had no official status as professional artists or musicians. The Swedish Consulate put this problem forward at an early stage of the project: vice-consul Björn Lyrvall explained Sissi Nilsson that artists’ missing official recognition made it more difficult to get support from the Soviet authorities. I assume that this is why the signatories of the letter present Kulturhuset as a venue for experimental, international young art. The letter, however, also states that the “ASSA” group of artists had already gained a reputation at home and abroad. This was not entirely wrong. By 1987, a number of articles had appeared in the national and the international press. Thus, one of the pages of Warhol’s “Interview” no 4, 1986, has an article on the “New Painters” next to a review of Stingray’s “Red Wave”. Perhaps even more important were international reviews on Sergey Kuryokhin and Pop Mekhanika. The Kulturhuset archive has a large number of articles featuring Kuryokhin, all published in English. A different question is whether Soviet cultural politicians regarded such an international echo as a valid argument to support the project. International recognition of Soviet counterculture could just as well have been counterproductive to having the project accepted.
Besides, the list of artists and musicians from the proposal of late 1987 was only partly congruent with the list of those who actually travelled to Sweden in August 1988. The number of visual artists shrank considerably – from nine to one – for the benefit of twelve musicians from the Pop Mekhanika crew. Bugaev and Novikov went as Pop Mekhanika performers, Yufit as film-maker, and from the remaining six artists, only Kotelnikov travelled as “artist”. Guryanov, Gutsevich, Kozlov, Ovchinnikov, and Savchenkov remained in Leningrad.
The letter also includes three annexes, which are not are not part of the documentation in Stockholm’s city archive and therefore unknown to me:
Annex I – Presentation of the ASSA group and biographies
Annex II – Budget
Annex III – photo documentation
In this way, the City of Stockholm proposed a fully worked out project, which, once accepted, could be have been implemented without delay.
 Loit, “Kulturförbindelser mellan Sverige och Estland efter andra världskriget,”68; Riksarkivet: Svenska Institutet: Avtal med Sovjetunionen. [Quote translated by Thomas Lundén. Footnote taken from Thomas Lundén’s article]
 It is likely that a similar letter was sent to the Leningrad Cultural Board; at any rate, this was discussed during the Leningrad visit of the Stockholm delegation in May 1987; see next chapter.
 Both articles are by Joan Agajamian Quinn. For the sake of clarity, it should be said that these articles often contain misleading information. For instance, one of the misinterpretations in Quinn’s article on the New Painters, “Soviet Art”, is that Soviet authorities labelled Timur Novikov as an “Anti-Soviet citizen”, which is false.