Russia: Government plan to ban emo and goth music



Government plan to ban emo and goth music

Russian lawmakers propose to ban teenage subculture rock music styles such as emo and goth from the country’s schools. Emo music fans in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk protested against the ban on 19 July 2008.

Emo has come to Russia – and its leaders want no part of it. The music style and fashion is considered a threat to national stability. The Moscow Times reported in July 2008 that members of the lower house of the Russian parliament, (the Russian State Duma deputies), Public Chamber members and social conservatives have hammered out legislation aimed at heading off the spread of emo culture, which they describe as a “dangerous teen trend”.

In June 2008, they held a parliamentary hearing on a draft of proposed amendments contained in a document called ‘Government Strategy in the Sphere of Spiritual and Ethical Education,’ a copy of which was obtained by The Moscow Times. The newspaper reported that among other measures, the proposed legislation calls for heavy regulation of emo web sites and for banning young people dressed like emos from entering schools and government buildings.

The legislation proposals are to be examined as draft laws over the next months, and the bill’s sponsors hope that it will be passed into law by the end of 2008.

On 19 July 2008 dozens of protesters in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk held up placards reading: “Kill the State in Yourself,” “Why Do We Have To Think The Same?” and “A Totalitarian State Encourages Stupidity,” reported AFP.

The Moscow Times quoted drummer Dmitry Gilevich, 21, as saying:
“Expressing psychological emotions is not forbidden by law. I believe every individual has that right. People think it’s an aggressive subculture for youth who cut their veins every day. First and foremost, emo is not a culture of the soul, but of music.”

About the music genre
Emo music, characterised by high emotional content and alternation between quiet and loud sounds, started in the United States in the 1980s as part of the punk movement and has gained mainstream popularity in recent years.

Born out of “emotional hard-core” punk and rock in Washington D.C. (and undergoing a rebirth in 2000), emo culture arrived in Moscow in 2003 after droves of young Russians began downloading foreign music on the internet. Bands like The Used and Finch were on heavy rotation at Created in 2005, a website such as has 6,000 registered members in its forum and gets more than 500 original hits per day.

Emo music is popular across Russia, where there are also regular media reports that the movement encourages suicide.

Death of a teenage girl
Recently, a coroner in the inquest into the death of a teenage girl in the UK expressed his concern about her devotion to emo music. This led to protests in London from fans of the music genre.

According to the Russian Government Strategy document, the “negative ideology” of emo culture may push young people toward depression and social withdrawal, and the movement carries a significant risk of suicide, especially for young girls. The bill also outlines what it calls a “spiritual and ethical crisis” facing Russian youth, including the high rate of alcohol abuse, teen abortions and “negative youth movements.”

Emo ideology encourages and justifies drug use and sexual relations among minors, according to the bill, which also lumps emos and goths together with skinheads. In November, the Novgorod regional education department issued a letter to all schools in the region with a description of emo culture, saying the “dream of every [emo] is to die in a warm bath from the blood of cutting their wrists.”

Slashed wrists
The Moscow Times interviewed Igor Ponkin, one of the bill’s authors and a member of the Interior Ministry’s public oversight council, who described emo culture as a “social danger” that demands measures such as dress codes in schools, Internet regulation and state-sponsored after-school activities.

Ponkin said emo kids exchange photographs showing off their slashed wrists. “This type of behavior is a crucial part of emo ideology,” he said.

“Of course there are emo teens who just listen to their music. But our actions are not directed at them but rather at those who also hurt themselves, commit suicide and promote those acts,” Ponkin added.

Subcultures help children mature
Not all psychologists agree with Ponkin’s analysis, however. The Moscow Times quoted psychologist Inna Cherkova as saying: “Suicide is not a symptom of emo culture. I work with other teens too, and every group has emotionally troubled kids.”

Inna Cherkova, who has worked with local teenagers, including emo kids, for 15 years.

“Many subcultures can, in fact, help children mature into adults”, psychologist Alyona Filippova told the newspaper. “Many kids seek those with the same perspective and problems and, through this, they can enter general society,” Filippova said.
Fugazi – an American hardcore punk-rock band that formed in Washington D.C. in 1987 and were among the founders of emo.

Guitarist of Maio Band who claims to be founders of the emo community in Russia

Click to see the interview
Singer Valentin of Maio Band, interviewed by the tv-programme Russia Today.

Click to see photo source
Authorities describe emo as a “negative ideology” which may encourage depression, social withdrawal and even suicide


The Moscow Times – 17 July 2008:

‘Black Bangs, Piercings Raise Eyebrows in Duma’

Gigwise – 17 July 2008:

‘A History Of Emo Music’

AFP – 20 July 2008:

‘Siberian emo fans protest planned ban: report’

The Guardian – 22 July 2008:

‘Russia wages war on emo kids’

Similar issues around the world

The Russian debate about the relationship between youth subculture, music and suicide is very similar to the debate which currently takes place in countries in the Middle East, as well as in Asian countries such as Malaysia and Bangladesh concerning genres such as heavy metal, death metal and black metal. Read more about this here:  
Heavy Metal

 About emo music in Russia – video on YouTube

Russia Today – 16 August 2007:
‘Emo grows in popularity in Russia’

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