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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yulia Savelyeva's Naked City

In early January, the local show-biz world got hit with its first shocking news of the year: Russia's most long-lived rock group, Mashina Vremeni, which seems to have been together forever, has sacked its keyboard player Pyotr Podgorodetsky. The decision has all the makings of a scandal, since the group's popularity in Russia and its significance for the local music scene can justly be compared with The Fab Four's impact on British pop culture.

A mere two weeks before the announcement, Mashina Vremeni, or Time Machine, had marked its 30th anniversary with a concert at Olimpiisky Stadium and nothing had foreshadowed this split. Moreover, the news came right before the band's first concert of the new year.

In hindsight, some of the gossip circulating about the group earlier had contained clues about the upcoming firing - specifically rumors about Podgorodetsky's alcohol and drug abuse, and about some serious illness. None of the musicians have revealed the true reasons behind the scandal. In an interview with the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily newspaper, group member Alexander Kutikov spoke about Podgorodetsky's character changing for the worse, about his childish behavior and unduly familiar manner, and the negative impact all this had had on the quality of their music.

After the initial shock subsided, the next question was obvious: Who will replace Podgorodetsky? The answer was somewhat sensational. Andrei Derzhavin, Podgorodetsky's completely illogical replacement, has stayed in the shadows for the last five years, shaking off his embarrassment after a career of sickly sweet pop songs, which, together with his pretty face, had broken many a teenager's heart. Mashina's choice seems strange indeed. But Yevgeny Margulis, another of the group's permanent members, is friends with Derzhavin and considers him a "great musician" and a "good guy." Andrei Makarevich, the band's charismatic leader, agreed: He believes Derzhavin has great potential. Andrei Derzhavin himself confessed to MTV that he was surprised, glad and nervous all at once, but - deep in his soul - has always felt like a part of this group.

We'll wait and see whether this switch will spoil the band's style or not. (Derzhavin has sworn not to disappoint Mashina's fans.) Most likely, it will just serve to boost some extra interest in these veterans of Russian rock, who are loved now mainly by those who grew up on their songs - part of the underground subculture forbidden in the days of the Iron Curtain.