Victor Choi

Viktor Tsoi

Viktor Tsoi

Viktor Tsoi in 1986, photo by Igor Mukhin
Background information
Birth name Viktor Robertovich Tsoi
Born 21 June 1962
Leningrad, Russia
Origin Leningrad, Russia
Died 15 August 1990 aoremovetag(aged 28)
Tukums, Latvia
Genres Rock, New Wave, Post-Punk
Occupations Singer-songwriter
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1979–1990
Labels AnTrop, Melodiya

Viktor Robertovich Tsoi (Russian: Ви́ктор Ро́бертович Цой, sometimes transliterated as Zoy); 21 June 1962 – 15 August 1990) was a Soviet rock musician, leader of the band Kino.

He is regarded as one of the pioneers of Russian rock and has many devoted fans across the countries of the former Soviet Union even today. Few musicians in the history of Russian music have been more popular or have had more impact on their genre than Viktor Tsoi and his rock band Kino.

Tsoi contributed a plethora of musical and artistic works, including ten albums. He died in a car accident on August 15, 1990, aged 28.

Early life

Tsoi was born in Leningrad, Soviet Union, the only child of Valentina Vasilyevna Tsoi (8 January 1937 in Leningrad, Soviet Union - 28 November 2009 in St. Petersburg, Russia), a Russian schoolteacher, and Robert Maximovich Tsoi (born 5 May 1938 in Kyzylorda, Kazakhstan), a Korean engineer.

Tsoi attended the in Leningrad from 1974 to 1977. In 1977, when Tsoy was 18 years old, the academy expelled him. The academy said that he was expelled for poor grades. RT said "it didn't help that he was heavily involved in the rock scene."


At the age of 17, Tsoi began writing songs. In the 1970s and the 1980s, rock was an underground movement limited mostly to Leningrad; Moscow pop stars ruled the charts and received the most exposure from the media. However, rock music was not popular with the government. Thus rock bands received little or no funding, were not given any exposure by the media. By this time Tsoi had begun to perform the songs he wrote at parties.

Tsoi went to underground concerts of Leningrad rock musicians. After a Boris Grebenshchikov solo concert he returned with Grebenshchikov on an elektrichka train from Petergof to Leningrad and played two of his songs to him. Grebenshchikov, who was already a relatively established musician in the Leningrad underground scene, was very impressed by Tsoi's talent and took him under his wing and helped him start up his own band. This signaled the beginning of Tsoi's rock music career.

Beginnings of Kino

Leningrad's Rock Club was one of the few public places where rock bands were allowed to perform. It was there in 1982, at their first annual Rock Concert that Viktor Tsoi made his stage debut. He was playing as a solo artist supported by two Aquarium members. Tsoi's innovative lyrics and music impressed the crowd.

Before making it big, Tsoi said that the problem with music was that no one wanted to take chances. He wanted to experiment with lyrics and music in order to create something fresh that no one had ever heard before. Tsoi succeeded in his goal. Shortly after the concert he recruited other musicians and they formed Kino, which in Russian means "cinema". They recorded a demo tape at Tsoi's apartment. This tape was quickly passed around Leningrad, then all over the country by rock enthusiasts. Kino began to gain a following.

First album

In 1982, Kino released their first album 45. This album first showed Tsoi's willingness to approach political topics in his music, something few other artists were willing to do. In his song "Suburban Electric Train" (Russian: Электричка/Elektrichka) he discussed a man stuck in a train that was taking him where he didn't wish to go; this was clearly a metaphor for life in the Soviet Union, and the band was quickly banned from performing this song live. Regardless, the political message of the song made it popular among the youth of the anti-establishment movement that now began to look to Viktor Tsoi and Kino as their idols.

In 1982, Tsoi met Marianna, who he married in 1985. She was a source of support and family for Tsoi, giving birth to their son Alexander (Sasha) on 5 August 1985.

Kino displayed more of their political views at the 2nd Leningrad Rock Club Concert. The band won the competition with Tsoi's anti-war song "I Declare My Home... [a nuclear-free zone]" (Russian: Я объявляю свой дом ... [безъядерной зоной], Ya ob'yavlyayu svoy dom ... [bez'yadernoy zonoy]). The song's popularity was fueled by the ongoing Afghan War which was claiming the lives of thousands of young Soviet citizens.

Gorbachev era

Rise to fame

1987 was a breakthrough year for Kino. The release of their 7th album Blood Type (Gruppa Krovi) triggered what was then called "Kinomania". The open political climate under glasnost allowed Tsoi to make Blood Type his most political album yet it also allowed him to record a sound of music that no one before him was able to play. Most of the tracks on the album were directed at the youth of the Soviet Union, telling them to take control and make changes within the nation, some of the songs addressed the social problems crippling the nation. The sound and lyrics of the album made Tsoi a hero among Soviet youth and Kino the most popular rock band ever. In the diverse Soviet republics fans translated his originally Russian lyrics into their native languages as well. Over the next few years, Tsoi appeared in several successful movies and also traveled to the USA to promote his films at film festivals. Several more albums were released, their themes were once again mostly political, further fueling the band's popularity. Even though Tsoi was a huge star, he still lived a relatively ordinary life. He kept his old job in the boiler room of an apartment building, a fact that surprised many people. Tsoi said that he enjoyed the work and he also needed the money to support the band, as they still received no government support and their albums were copied and passed around the nation via samizdat free of charge. This made Tsoi even more popular among the people because it showed that he was down to earth and they could relate to them. He also went on tour in 1988-1989 to Italy, France and Denmark. Kino's finest hour came in 1990 with a concert at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. 62,000 fans filled the stands to celebrate the triumph of the USSR's most successful rock group.

Film appearances

In 1987, the band Kino (amongst other Russian rock bands) played his own part in Assa(Асса), a film by Sergei Solovyov.

In 1988, Viktor Tsoi starred in a feature film directed by Rashid Nugmanov and written by Aleksandr Baranov and Bakhyt Kilibayev. It was entitled (Russian: Игла, Igla) with Tsoi playing the movie's protagonist. The plot is centered around the character Moro, who returns to Almaty, Kazakhstan, to collect money owed to him. While waiting out an unexpected delay, he visits his former girlfriend Dina, and discovers she has become a morphine addict. He decides to help her kick the habit and fight the local drug mafia responsible for her condition. But Moro finds a deadly opponent in "the doctor," the mafia kingpin who is exploiting Dina.

The film's soundtrack, including original music by Tsoi's band Kino, contributes to the overall feeling of the movie, in addition to the film's use of post-modern twists and surreal scenes.

The movie was officially released in February 1989 in the Soviet Union.

Death and aftermath

While in Latvia, on 14 August 1990, Tsoi finished recording the vocals for Kino's next album. He was supposed to travel back to Leningrad so that his band mates could record its musical score. Early in the morning of 15 August, Viktor Tsoi was driving on the road Sloka - Talsi from a fishing trip when his Aleko collided with a bus outside Tukums at high speed. Tsoi died instantly. His car was completely demolished to the point that one of its tires was never found. The investigation concluded that Tsoi had fallen asleep while driving, possibly due to fatigue.; he did not consume alcohol for at least 48 hours before his death. Tsoi had wanted to take his son, Alexander (Sasha) with him on the trip, but Sasha did not go. Tsoi was buried in a closed casket.

On 17 August, Komsomolskaya Pravda, one of the main Soviet newspapers, had the following to say about Tsoi and his meaning to the youth of the nation:

Cultural impact

See also


Further reading

External links

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