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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia's Choice Woos Rock Fans

Rather than fighting the famed political apathy of Russia's youth, the nation's leading reformist political bloc is turning to rock stars to help win over young voters.


Russia's Choice, the party led by First Deputy Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, staged an all-star rock concert Wednesday evening to be televised early Saturday morning, featuring Mashina Vremeni, the underground rock heroes of the Soviet era, as welt as pop singer Larisa Dolina, folk singer Vladimir Markin and others.


The free concert, which boasted all the glitz of quasi-political Western concerts like Live Aid, drew 2, 000 teenagers, young adults and mothers with children, who packed the Palace of Youth, a gargantuan Brezhnev-era youth center. Hundreds more stood wistfully outside.


But for some of them, seeing their idols back the party most closely associated with President Boris Yeltsin was a surprise - they said they did not know who had organized the concert or what Russia's Choice stood for.


Although publicity posters had sported the party logo and mentioned the party bywords "freedom, property and law", they said they had just come for a rock concert.


"We don't relate to politics", said Svetlana Ivanova, 24, a schoolteacher who came with a 16-year-old friend. "We don't think there are any worthy politicians".


Sasha, 22, a police officer who refused to give his last name, said he had come "mainly because of the famous artists, of course".


For Alexander Gafin, the playwright who organized the event, that was just fine.


"With these artists, we are just trying to seize their attention", he said. "We will just attract them to that name, Russia's Choice, and then we will explain everything".


White, red and blue spotlights danced through billowing white smoke against a backdrop of the Kremlin as the show opened with a specially written song whose uplifting if interminable chorus repeated: "Russia is resurrected".


Introducing the 55-minute show, in which vocalists swapped roles and songs, Mashina Vremeni's leader, Andrei Makarevich, told the crowd: "This is not just a rally for one political party The main thing is that we don't want you to shoot at us" - the crowd laughed - "and we don't want you to be communists or fascists".


But above it all, lost a bit in the mist, floated the symbol of Russia's Choice, a stylized drawing of Peter the Great on a rearing horse.


"Today, the interests of youth and the interests of the whole population are almost identical" said Gafin. "You can see how communist groups go after people from the older generation, who were raised under Brezhnev or Stalin. Russia's Choice is the party of the future".


For some, such thoughts simply interfered with the show, which had the audience swaying to old favorites by both Mashina Vremeni and the Beatles.


However, backstage, Lena Perova, 17, one of the three teenage girls in the group Litsei, defended the political bent.


"If this generation loves us", she said, ("and apparently they do", put in another of the trio) "then they will make what I think is the right choice, because we can't go back to the way things were".


Makarevich of Mashina Vremeni called Gaidar "reasonable", but said he did not "categorically" support Russia's Choice and leaned toward Grigory Yavlinsky as well as Gaidar.


Mashina Vremeni was idolized by young fans in the 1970s and 1980s, when its concerts were outlawed by Soviet authorities. In today's more permissive society, the group has settled into a reliable and nostalgic popularity.


Other rock dinosaurs performing included Markin, Dolina and Kris Kelmi; Litsei and Akademia are newer groups. Many in the audience seemed years away from reaching voting age, which is 18. But Gafin said the show was aimed primarily at a television audience, which will view the concert on the rock program Musikalny Oboz on Ostankino's Channel 1 Saturday morning at 12: 20 A. M.