Alexei Khvostenko

Alexei Khvostenko (Russian: Алексей Хвостенко)

Alexei Khvostenko at a concert in Moscow, in April, 2004
Background information
Born (1940-11-14)November 14, 1940
Origin Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg), Soviet Union
Died November 30, 2004(2004-11-30) (aged 64)
Moscow, Russia
Genres Bard
Occupation(s) Singer, poet, artist, singer-songwriter, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, guitar
Years active 1970–2004

Alexei Khvostenko (Russian: Алексей Львович Хвостенко; November 14, 1940 – November 30, 2004) was a Russian avant-garde poet, singer-songwriter, artist and sculptor. Khvostenko is also frequently referred to by the nickname Khvost (Russian: Хвост), meaning "tail".


Alexei Khvostenko was born on November 14, 1940 in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg). He soon moved to Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), where he grew up. He studied at the Leningrad State Institute of Theatre, Music and Cinematography. In 1963 he published through samizdat his first book, "Podozritel'" (translates, roughly, as "He, who suspects"). While in Leningrad, together with Henri Volohonski, Khvostenko founded an avant-garde literary group, "Verpa".[1][2]

In 1968 Khvostenko moved to Moscow and became an active figure in Russian underground literary circles, publishing his poetry and songs through samizdat.[3] Khvostenko became a prominent figure in the revival of the avant-garde movement in Soviet literature and art that became possible during Nikita Khrushchev's "thaw" after the death of Joseph Stalin. He is sometimes referred to as the "grandfather of Russian rock".[4] Khvostenko co-wrote the song "The Golden City" ("Город золотой") that later achieved iconic status in Russia when it was sung by Boris Grebenshchikov in the 1987 film "Assa".[5] Apart from literary works, Khvostenko was also an accomplished painter and sculptor (although his work was not officially exhibited), known for his innovative collages.[6]

Although he did not consider himself to be a political dissident, Khvostenko was regularly harassed and persecuted by the Soviet authorities, accused of social parasitism (тунея́дство), and at one point was put into a psychiatric hospital[7] (a tactic commonly employed by the Soviet authorities for punishing political dissidents). At the time Khvostenko was good friends with a prominent Russian poet Joseph Brodsky,[8] who was also persecuted by the Soviet authorities.

In 1977 Khvostenko was forced by the Soviet authorities to emigrate. He ended up settling in Paris. There Khvostenko, together with Vladimir Maramzin, launched a literary journal, "Echo" (Russian: "Эхо").[9][10] Khvostenko became a leading figure in the Russian literary community in France. His Paris studio space—an art squat on the corner of 14 rue Juliette Dodu and rue Sambre et Meuse, in the 10th Arrondissement of Paris—became "a kind of club, where many famous groups and singers performed".[11] While living in France, Khvostenko recorded a number of song albums, including several albums in the 1990s with the Russian rock group Auktyon (АукцЫон).[12][13] His songs became widely popular in Russia, particularly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

In 2004, after a personal appeal to President Vladimir Putin, Khvostenko regained his Russian citizenship.[11][14] Subsequently he divided his time between Paris and Moscow. Alexei Khvostenko died of heart failure on November 30, 2004 in a Moscow hospital.[15]

A year after his death Alexei Khvostenko's friends published his collected literary works in an anthology called "Verpa" – a word "invented by Khvostenko to describe his literary credo".[7]


  1. K. K. Kuzminsky and G. L. Kovalev (editors), The Blue Lagoon Anthology of Modern Russian Poetry, Blue Lagoon, TX, vol. 2A, 1983, pp. 226–390 and vol. 2B, 1986, pp. 679–735.
  2. Maxim D. Shrayer (editor). An Anthology of Jewish-Russian Literature. M. E. Sharpe, Inc. January 2007. ISBN 978-0-7656-0521-4; page 942.
  3. by Dmitrij Severjuchin; Vjačeslav Dolinin. Samizdat Leningrada: 1950-e – 1980-e: literaturnaja ėnciklopedija (in Russian). Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, Moscow, 2003. ISBN 5-86793-216-8.
  4. Singer Alexei Khvostenko receives Russian passport in Paris. January 22, 2004.Quote:Khvostenko, 63, is often referred to as "grandfather of Russian rock."
  5. Mikhail Epstein, Aleksandr Genis and Slobodanka Vladiv-Glover. Russian postmodernism: new perspectives on Post-Soviet Culture. Berghahn Books, New York, 1999. ISBN 1-57181-028-5; page 482.
  6. Hilton Kramer.1917—The Russian Revolution—1967; Small Avant-Garde in Soviet Art Departs From Official Socialist Realist Style. New York Times. October 13, 1967; page 24. Quote:"Though he has produced some respectable abstract paintings, his forte is collage, and he has been much influenced by Robert Rauschenberg and the earlier Dadaists. In his collages, images from magazines, newspapers, and other printed materials, either pasted or transferred to the page by the technique known as frottage, generate a sense of speed and disaster."
  7. 1 2 Underground Man. Moscow Times. October 28, 2005.
  8. Obituary. (in Russian) Ekho Moskvy, December 12, 2004. Accessed December 21, 2008
  9. Mikhail Epstein, Aleksandr Genis and Slobodanka Vladiv-Glover. Russian postmodernism: new perspectives on Post-Soviet Culture. Berghahn Books, New York, 1999. ISBN 1-57181-028-5; page 488.
  10. Arnold McMillin. Exiled Russian Writers of the Third Wave and the Emigre Press. The Modern Language Review, Vol. 84, No. 2 (Apr., 1989), pp. 406–413.
  11. 1 2 Singer Alexei Khvostenko receives Russian passport in Paris. January 22, 2004.
  12. Birgit Beumers. Pop Culture Russia!: Media, Arts, and Lifestyle. ABC-CLIO, Inc. June, 2005. ISBN 978-1-85109-459-2; page 224.
  13. Death of Russian Rock Postponed. Moscow Times. January 22, 1994.
  14. Interview with Alexei Khvostenko.(in Russian). Echo of Moscow, April 4, 2004
  15. Chernov's Choice. The St. Petersburg Times. December 3, 2004

External links

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