Roman Naveskin
Tsoisploitation: From Prophet to Ghost

February 3, 1959 went down in the history of the US as “the day the music died”: three very young pioneers and stars of rock and roll—Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper—were killed in a plane crash in Iowa. Why was this particular tragedy so shocking to Americans? Probably because of the tender age of both rock music itself, and its performers and listeners: when you are twenty-two years old (as Buddy Holly was when he died), it seems that you, your friends, your favorite artists and everything that is dear to your heart will live and last forever. Something similar happened in the Soviet Union, but with a delay, caused by the fact that rock gained legitimacy there much later. The most difficult years for fans were 1988–1991, when Alexander Bashlachov, Yanka Dyagileva, Viktor Tsoi and Mike Naumenko died. However, the fatal accident on the Sloka-Talsi Highway in Latvia stands out even in this list. Tsoi’s death was a personal loss for hundreds of thousands of people, the day when Soviet rock died. And yet Tsoi himself seems to have become even more powerful and influential since that day. Roman Naveskin chronicles the vagaries of the singer-songwriter’s posthumous existence, special for his curatorial project about fake identites in art and V–A–C Sreda.

During his lifetime, the actor Bruce Lee was an international phenomenon: his films were incredibly popular not only in Hong Kong, but all over the world, including the US, Europe and the Soviet Union. One of the fans of Lee’s talent was Viktor Tsoi, frontman of the Leningrad band Kino, one of the most famous Soviet rockers and a cultural symbol of perestroika.

Alexander Lipnitsky, bass guitarist of the Moscow band Zvuki Mu, recalled Tsoi’s fascination with Bruce Lee in an interview published in Afisha: “I was the first person in our group of friends to get a VCR, and they [Viktor Tsoi and Alexei Rybin, Kino’s co-founder and original lead guitarist] made it a habit to come to my apartment for the purposes of cultural development. Tsoi immediately became a big fan of Bruce Lee after seeing Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon at my place, and every time he came [to Moscow], he would find any excuse to watch them again.” Dazzled by Lee, Tsoi even started taking kung fu lessons with the Asian studies scholar Sergei Puchkov. Lee’s influence on Tsoi is apparent in Rashid Nugmanov’s film The Needle (1988), especially in the scene in which Tsoi’s character goes hand to hand with gangsters.

After Lee’s death in 1973, a subgenre of martial arts films known as Bruceploitation, emerged in Hong Kong cinema. Producers tried to exploit Bruce Lee’s iconic figure by employing numerous would-be doppelgangers and successors. They recruited several dozen little-known actors and stuntmen with at least some martial arts and gymnastics training, and forced them to act under pseudonyms similar to the name of Bruce Lee (which was itself a stage name—Lee’s real name was Jun Fan Lee; and he had performed under the name Lee Siu Loong as a child actor). The incomplete list of Bruce Lee clones includes Bruce Chen, Bruce Le, Bruce Liang, Saro Lee, Bruce Ly, Bruce Thai, Brute Lee, Myron Bruce Lee, Lee Bruce, Bruce Lei aka Dragon Lee, Bruce Li, Bruce Lai, and Bruce Lie.

Thanks to the Bruce Lee clones, an entire underground meta-cinema operating outside the bounds of copyright emerged in Hong Kong in the late 1970s. The subjects of the films in which the clones took part ranged from standard kung fu fare (in which a defender of the downtrodden takes on the mafia) and reworkings of Lee’s meager filmography into fantastical pseudo-biopics and meditations on pop culture. In Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger (1976), for example, Bruce Li plays the student and heir of Bruce Lee, investigating the mystery of his master’s death. In Fist of Fear, Touch of Death (1980), the characters fight in a martial arts tournament for the title of Bruce Lee’s heir. Three films stand out as the most expressive specimens of this wave. In the first, Bruce Lee Fights Back from the Grave (1976), Bruce Lee rises from his grave after it is struck by lightning. In the crossover The Clones of Bruce Lee (1980), which a critic dubbed “the Mount Rushmore of the Bruceploitation wave”, a scientist obtains samples of Bruce Lee’s brain tissue and uses them to create three perfect clones (played by Dragon Lee, Bruce Le and Bruce Lai) to fight crime in Southeast Asia. (One of the villains was played by another Bruce Lee clone, Bruce Tai.) Finally, in the film The Dragon Lives Again (1977), Bruce Lee, played by Bruce Leung, goes to hell, where he fights other pop-culture icons, including James Bond, the Godfather, Zatoichi, Count Dracula, the Man with No Name (the hero of Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy, played in the original films by Clint Eastwood), Emmanuelle, and the Exorcist. He is aided by the One-Armed Swordsman (the hero of a trilogy of wuxia films produced by the Shaw Brothers), Caine, the hero of the TV series Kung Fu (1972–1975), and Popeye the Sailor.

Thus, after his death, Bruce Lee became a fictional character whose image was illegally exploited in numerous adaptations, homages and fantasies about his life and death, as Hong Kong producers squandered the symbolic capital the martial arts legend had amassed during his lifetime.

Tsoi’s posthumous fate has unfolded in a similar way. Even before his death in 1990, groups that were almost indistinguishable from Kino in terms of their sound, arrangements, poetics, image and performing style appeared one after another. After Tsoi’s fatal accident in Latvia, some of these groups attempted to continue Kino’s cause (by that time, the band had gone from simply being part of the Leningrad Rock Club scene to being the perhaps unwitting champions of perestroika). Some of the Tsoi clones went further, secretly infiltrating Kino’s discography with the help of the hoax album A Feast During the Plague (aka The Miracle Album). Inspired by the term “Bruceploitation”, I have decided to label with the umbrella term “Tsoisploitation” all the groups that played a role in copying or symbolically supplanting Viktor Tsoi and his creative legacy.

For convenience, we will divide the impersonators, imitators and cover bands into four more or less roughly defined waves. The first wave, which reached the greatest heights in “cloning” Tsoi, consists of a single group, New Day (Moscow, 1987–2006), fronted by musician Ivan Kurnayev, who misled many Kinomaniacs by perpetrating the aforementioned hoax. The second wave consists of groups that, while not aspiring to replace Tsoi completely, conscientiously copied Kino’s sound, poetics and image. They include Second Series (Novokuznetsk, 1992–1993; Viktor Tor-She, frontman), Bekhan (Grozny, founded 1991; Bekhan Barakhoyev, frontman), Viktor (Moscow, founded 1995; Askhat Osh (Kalbayev), frontman), and Sunny Days (formerly known as Black Square; Moscow, founded 1989; Igor Sokolov, frontman 1989). The third wave consists of groups that tried to imitate Kino without achieving much success. Their name is legion: The Living, The Forms, Emergency Exit, The Needle, Centurion, Magnet, Inverted City, Sadness, and performer Denis Yevdokimov, among others. The fourth wave consists of metamodern exploiters of Tsoi’s image who completely reject their own originality or use modern technology to replicate Tsoi with various degrees of seriousness or post-irony. They include Sergei Kuzmenko, frontman and founder of the group Z-exit, known for his role as the Tsoi impersonator Roma Legend in the film Chapiteau Show (Sergei Loban, 2011), Ilya Nikolayev, a Tsoi “double” and founder of the group Kinokhronika (“Newsreel”), and cover bands such as Interesnoe Kino (“Interesting Movie, ” Sergey Galantny, frontman), The Game (Bek Mardonov, frontman), and GoroD (“CitY”, Alexei Titov, frontman), which is known, among other things, for performing works based on the rough drafts of songs Tsoi supposedly never recorded.

It is impossible not to also include in this final category the project “Viktor Letov”, which aims to create as many mashups as possible of songs by Viktor Tsoi and Yegor Letov, leader of the Siberian group Grazhdanskaya Oborona (“Civil Defense”, often referred to as “GrOb”, i.e., “coffin”). These songs include “Lobotomichka”, “Close the Door Behind Me, I’m Jumping”, “Running Out of Bottoms”, “Take Care of the Major’s Feet (Ice Yourself)”, “The Eighth-Grade Girl’s Revelations”, and “Cuckoo, Go to…!”. Viktor Letov’s mashups have been compiled on several albums: KinoGrob—The Foul Album, 100 Stars of Solitude, The War Will Be in Paradise and, perhaps the most famous, My Aluminum Defense.

Sham culture played a significant role in Leningrad culture and the whole of the late Soviet culture in which Viktor Tsoi and the future members of Kino were formed as musicians. Kulturträgers, collectors, and black marketeers gave young performers a start in life by letting them listen to samples of “authentic” rock music from behind the Iron Curtain. Konstantin Kinchev’s “Music Lover” (1984) is a quasi-confessional song about just such a ritual introduction to the rock canon. It consists entirely of a list of Kinchev’s favorite bands, thus tracing the evolution of the musical preferences of a typical fashionable Soviet music connoisseur in the 1980s, with a brief comment on what most hooked and influenced the young frontman of the Leningrad band Alisa. Most rock musicians learned to play their instruments by copying the parts they heard on foreign records from other people’s collections. One such collector was Andrei “Swine” Panov, with whom Tsoi was friends in the early 1980s and in whose group Automatic Satisfiers Tsoi occasionally performed. Panov worked as a salesman in a radio equipment store and had an impressive music library. According to memoirs, Tsoi often visited Panov to listen to new recordings by the likes of the Smiths, the Cure, the Sisters of Mercy, the Clash, the Police and other bands. Though nowadays there are countless articles on the internet which identify, with various degrees of reliability, the songs and ideas Tsoi “borrowed” from these bands, it took time – and the democratization of access to music - for these influences to be widely recognized.

In the context of late Soviet sham culture, a passage from the memoirs of Alexei Rybin, published in 1991 under the title Kino from the Very Beginning, merits our attention. Rybin recalls how he and Tsoi went to see a concert by the group Blitz, led by Valery Kocharov. Blitz was a band from Soviet Georgia which successfully toured the Soviet Union covering songs by the Beatles. Kocharov made sure to turn their medley of Beatles hits into a genuine drag show. His band not only performed Beatles songs, but also looked exactly like the Beatles: the Tbilisi Opera House made exact replicas of the uniforms worn by the Liverpudlians on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for Kocharov and his musicians. The show mentioned by Rybin took place in 1981 at the Yubileiny Sports Palace in Leningrad.

The lights went out, and we froze as the Beatles came on stage. Not a Georgian vocal and instrumental ensemble, but the actual Beatles in the flesh—that was the first impression. The guys from Blitz had, apparently, spent a lot of time with artists, costumers, make-up artists, hairdressers and directors to achieve this effect. They had managed to do it without plastic surgery. The faces of the musicians still did not resemble the faces of the Liverpool Four, and that was what was needed. Their image was as rough and unfinished as was necessary in order not to make the impression that it was four schizophrenics, who had completely lost their identity and been reincarnated as phantoms, who stood before the audience.


We can now argue over whether such concert programs are necessary or not, but back then they were needed. It was bliss, total bliss! Of course, it was fake, as you say, but we all grew up on fake sausage, played fake guitars, learned fake history, bought records by fake singers in stores for fake money, and the fake leader of our country made speeches on TV. The fake Beatles were not the worst of this lot, and, in fact, as I have said, they were not the fake Beatles.

Interestingly, the theme of doubles in Beatles mythology dates to 1969, when persistent rumors arose about Paul McCartney’s alleged accidental death and his replacement by the winner of a doppelganger contest. Thus, whilst still alive, McCartney was inducted into the symbolic pop culture pantheon, where Elvis Presley was already located (his death was questioned by particularly ardent fans) and where Bruce Lee would later find himself. The myth that Bruce Lee had simply “walked away from worldly fame” emerged immediately after his death, and was one of the triggers for Bruceploitative takes on the tragic events of July 20, 1973. Later, the greatest Beatlemaniac in the Soviet Union and Russia, Kolya Vasin (an extremely significant, ambiguous and undervalued figure of the 1980s Soviet rock underground) repeatedly claimed that John Lennon had not been murdered: “In late 1980, John Lennon boarded a ship and went first to Ireland, then to England, drove through France to the north of Italy and there took refuge with monks he knew near the town of Alagna, where he lives almost alone in a monastery”.

It thus becomes clear that Soviet rock music unwittingly took on postmodern features, generating mutations from the original source’s semantic center, exploiting the form to fill it with new content (often politicized, albeit expressed through safe euphemisms), and secretly “dressing up” in the skin of the original, while denying its own complicity in camp culture.

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, the obligatory vetting (litovanie) of song lyrics (that is, the approval of a song’s text by the local rock club’s censorship committee) would play a cruel joke on Soviet rock’s legacy, giving conspiracy-minded fans legitimate grounds for the wildest interpretations. (The fascination with conspiracy theories did not begin with the internet era, of course.) Nina Baranovskaya, a philologist who served as the head of the repertoire department at the Leningrad Rock Club, described her experience in the book On the Road to Paradise (1993). In a subsequent interview, she spoke about the deliberate distortion of words and meanings in such hostile conditions.

Sometimes I took the phonetic approach, as I called it, to things forbidden by the authorities. After all, the official minders compared the vetted lyrics with what they heard sung at concerts. For example, [Boris] Grebenshchikov has this line in one of his songs: “Buddha in the heart, and a devil in the rib.” In Soviet times, mentions of Buddha, Christ and Mohammed were dubbed “pro-religious propaganda.” And it was difficult to prove to the lady from the culture department that she had misheard it. Buddha is Buddha. But I suggested that Boris use a word that sounded similar to the one in the printed text. So, in the papers taken away for review by the comrade minders, the line turned into “Hard in the heart, and a devil in the rib.” It was rubbish and nonsense, but it sounded similar. And when [Grebenshchikov] sang the real lyrics in concert, you could always tell the comrades that they had just imagined [hearing the word “Buddha”].

Garbled to keep musicians safe, and censors and Communist Party functionaries clueless, willfully misunderstood, broadcast in Aesopian language on the grapevine, and listened to in bootleg copies on poor audio equipment, the lyrics of Soviet rock bands were sometimes reduced to a flagrant stream of consciousness. Certain persistent Tsoi fans still hear the word “door” (dver) in the song “Knock (Just One Word)” on the vinyl version of the album A Star Called the Sun, instead of the word “believe” (ver’) in the line “And when I turn around on the threshold, I will say just one word: believe!”. They puzzle over whether this “door” is yet another gospel image or a reference to Jim Morrison and The Doors and, accordingly, Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception. These circumstances have not only sparked stormy internet controversies. They have also generated a proliferation of Tsoi himself as reincarnated by his listeners.

Perhaps the most famous Tsoi doppelganger story involves the group New Day, its frontman Ivan Kurnayev, and the man who could partially be called the project’s self-imposed producer, Alexei Naumov. It all started in 2007, when an album allegedly featuring previously unknown Kino songs was posted on the internet. The vocals sounded extremely similar to those of Tsoi, and the arrangements of the unknown songs left almost no doubt that the record, dubbed The Miracle Album (alternately titled A Feast During the Plague, after one of its songs) had actually been recorded by Kino. Rumors about its authenticity were vigorously stoked by Naumov, allegedly the owner of the recording. According to the legend, Naumov had received an old tape cassette containing twenty-seven songs from an unidentified friend, to whom it had been given by Alexander Tsoi (Viktor Tsoi’s son), who had himself found the recording at the dacha of his mother Marianna Tsoi after she died in 2005.

Naumov was also apparently behind a mythical story about the people who made the recording, the unknown supergroup New Day, featuring Tsoi, Sergei Kuryokhin (Pop Mechanics), Grigory Sologub (Strange Games), Alexander Kondrashkin (Aquarium, Strange Games, AVIA, etc.) and Svyatoslav Obraztsov (Picnic). According to Naumov, the emergence of this group—a dream team for any fan of Russian rock—was due to the personal circumstances of Kino’s other members in late 1987–early 1988: Yuri Kasparyan, the guitarist, had got married; Georgy Guryanov, the drummer, was absorbed in exhibitions of his paintings; and bassist Igor Tikhomirov was dealing with health problems. Taking advantage of this forced interruption in the life of his band, Tsoi allegedly went to Moscow at the invitation of Kuryokhin, made several recordings and played a number of concerts. One of them, held at the Young People’s Theater near the Tsaritsyno subway station, was mentioned by a certain Stanislav Varnin, though this was probably just one of Naumov’s many internet avatars.

It was Naumov who strenuously promoted the myth of Tsoi and the nonexistent supergroup New Day, most likely in order to monetize the numerous “miraculous” albums he generously compiled with songs by the real New Day, which its frontman Ivan Kurnayev had founded in 1987. New Day was one of the first groups to imitate Kino’s style. The New Day albums Through the Glass (1990), On This Side of the Sea(1991) and We’ll Be Back (1991), as well as Wordplay, or Russian Pop for Boys and Girls (1992), Dances (1992) and Bomb Shelter (1993), recorded by the band’s second line-up, were the raw material for the compilation A Feast During the Plague. Nowadays, New Day’s members distance themselves from Naumov, casting doubt on his sanity and debunking the myth of Tsoi’s involvement in the album.

But what makes the story of this hoax truly interesting is not the successful stylistic and poetic plagiarism, nor the surprisingly well-recorded vocals and instrumentals, nor the gullibility of Kinomaniacs, but how much listeners wanted to believe that the songs were authored by Tsoi. An especially robust discussion was provoked by the song “There Are Tanks on the Streets”. Supporters of the claim that Tsoi wrote the song wanted to persuade themselves once again of Tsoi’s prophetic power and poetic genius. Tsoi, it seems, had predicted not only the collapse of the Soviet Union, but also the subsequent storming of the Russian White House in October 1993:

A strange morning and the shouts of the crowd.
I do not know which of us will survive.
Someone went and became a wall:
There will be a battle here soon,
After all, there are tanks on the streets!

The immediate, unapologetic revolutionary fervor with which interpreters imbued the real Tsoi’s songs during his lifetime made a tremendous impression on many people. After Tsoi’s sudden tragic death, he became a quasi-prophet for thousands of them. Interpretations of his work that emphasized its supposed evangelical and apocalyptic motifs have generated some curious cases. For example, in 1999, when many eschatologically minded people were waiting for the world to end, astronomer and ufologist Zufar Kadikov published the book In the Footsteps of the Prophet of Light, which was completely devoted to deciphering the hidden meanings of eighteen lyrics by Tsoi. The musician himself was identified as the author and precursor of Christ’s second coming. Kadikov analyzed Tsoi’s lyrics line by line, sometimes inviting readers to engage in independent spiritual exercises—for example, meditating for a day on Tsoi’s grave with a looped track playing on their headphones in order to penetrate the mystery of the line “24 laps be gone” in the song “I’m Asphalt”. Kadikov’s followers would later elaborate the principles of a theological/occult hermeneutics of Tsoi’s oeuvre, suggesting devotees look for backmasking in his songs—that is, secret messages heard only when a track is played in reverse. (The technique was popularized by the Beatles on their 1966 album Revolver.) Thus, when played in reverse, the low-key song “I Walk down the Street” (1983) suddenly reveals, allegedly, Tsoi declaring “I sing songs of ruach” (Ruach is the Hebrew word for “spirit”). Finally, the most radical readers of Kadikov’s revelation; the moderators of the St. Andrew the First Called internet forum, Alexander Ovchanov and Leonid Sosnin, tried to persuade people that Tsoi was the Prophet Elijah, while the priest Alexander Ovchinnikov engaged in “luminous” Tsoi studies, explicating Tsoi’s work in a lecture-song form and also deciphering allusions to Gospel texts.

The traditional media not only supported “cartographical” research into the terrestrial wanderings of the Kino frontman’s spirit, they set the gold standard for it. In 1991, a year after Tsoi’s death, the program UFO: Unannounced Visit interviewed Bekhan Barakhoyev, a Chechen musician from Grozny and frontman of the group Bekhan, which we have already mentioned above. On the air, in his first TV appearance, Barakhoyev was prompted into admitting that he had dreams about Tsoi. Vague statements by Barakhoyev, taken out of context, formed the basis of the living legend that Tsoi’s soul had possessed Barakhoyev during their supposedly simultaneous car accidents on August 15, 1990. This, apparently, was a take on the well-known occult rock-and-roll myth about the young Jim Morrison trading souls with a dying Indian he saw lying on the roadside next to a crashed truck. “The reaction I get now thinking about it, looking back / Is that the souls of the ghosts of those dead Indians / Maybe one or two of ‘em, were just running around freaking out, / And just leaped into my soul. / And they’re still in there”, Morrison recalled in the spoken-word piece “Dawn’s Highway”.

But despite such curious interpretations and the spiritual practices they engender, the philosophical view of Tsoi’s image and the subject of this article—Tsoi’s doppelgangers in the context of the Tsoisploitation craze—encourage us to compare him not with a prophet, but with a specter in the sense that Jacques Derrida gave to the word. In Specters of Marx (1993), the French philosopher introduced the term “hauntology”, imparting to the specter’s cultural image the paradoxical property of existence. The specter is neither living nor dead, and yet it is present, linking the past with the present and forever trying to shed its “spectral status” by manifesting itself in the world of the living.

Reconstructing the thinking of those who reproduce Tsoi’s image and heeding Derrida’s argument, the ghost of the “the star called the sun” has transformed into a sacred symbol, has tried to excarnate himself from the world of the dead, save his flock with new songs, and continue his career as a spiritual guru. Reinforced by an army of Tsoi imitators, the deceased communicates new prophecies in tune with the zeitgeist by, for example, warning against tanks on the streets. Kurnayev, in fact, has not only mimicked Tsoi’s style. He has also picked up and run with one of Tsoi’s last lifetime “prophecies, ” which Tsoi never dared to perform or record, handing it over to Alexander Lipnitsky for safekeeping: the critical meta-text “Children of Minutes”, which targets Tsoi’s colleagues in the Leningrad Rock Club, ending with the pessimistic line “the streets are waiting for your tears”. (In the song’s other lyrics, which are fairly easily decoded, Tsoi takes jabs at Kinchev, Yuri Shevchuk, Mikhail Borzykin and other Leningrad rockers, deflating them as effectively as Lee defeated Dracula.) Rising from the grave like Bruce Lee in the Hong Kong cinema of the 1970s, like John Lennon in a 1980s Soviet Beatlemaniac’s conspiratorial quasi-religious neurosis, or Karl Marx in the French post-structuralist thought of the 1990s, the ghost of Viktor Tsoi has picked up the microphone and continued to reflect on current political processes, indignantly noting that “the veil in the temple was torn in two” (the Soviet Union fell), but the kingdom of God (enlightened pro-western democracy) never ensued.

It should be noted that, within this liminal space of perpetually anticipated change, Tsoi’s ghost has come under supreme patronage. Even before Alexey Uchitel’s feature film Tsoi was released in 2020, it sparked a scandal. Tsoi’s heirs, his son Alexander and his father Robert, sent a personal appeal to the president, in which they asked him to stop the release of a film which, they argued, ignored “spiritual values of primary importance.” The Tsois predicted that if Uchitel’s film retained its distribution certificate, an eschatological “humanitarian crisis” threatened the whole of Russia, namely, “a decline in society’s intellectual and cultural level, a devaluation of generally accepted values and a distortion of moral benchmarks, and a deformation of historical memory.” When thinking about the mechanics of protesting particular interpretations of Tsoi’s image, many questions arise. Is the claim of his heirs to have the exclusive legal right to interpret Tsoi, his life and his work legitimate? Is it possible to define the boundaries of interpretation once and for all, thus semiotically ringfencing Tsoi’s image and declaring its interpretation forever consummated? If this is possible, could this not transform Tsoi into an exalted religious symbol of the Russian national canon? Will Tsoi eventually fall under the intellectual jurisdiction of the latest angelology?

Tsoi’s posthumous journey reached a point that Derrida could not have imagined in his wildest dreams: reanimated at the behest of businessman Rinat Aznagulov and the internet company Yota, Tsoi gave a futuristic concert on Arts Square in Petersburg as part of an exhibition entitled Future in Russia [sic], singing “Blood Type” and asking listeners to wish him luck in battle—a battle that never came, having long ago turned into a perpetual anticipation. After singing his greatest revolutionary hit, Tsoi’s ghost evaporated back into non-existence, transmogrifying into the strange title “The future in Russia: everything is possible,” a reference either to the terrific prospects of young Russian entrepreneurs, to a dictum often attributed to Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (“If there is no God, everything is permitted”) or, perhaps, to Slavoj Žižek’s counterclaim (“If there is a God, then anything is permitted”). One of Tsoi’s most popular lines — “Now it’s our turn to act!” — was purchased in 2011 for one million dollars by the uber-capitalist Oleg Tinkov to advertise his bank.

The techno-fetishist future and the communist past have become entangled. Tsoi continues to wander a mirror maze chockablock with his own doubles, just as Bruce Lee does in the famous scene from Enter the Dragon, filmed in the year of Lee’s death and, thus, at the very outset of the Bruceploitation craze. Thanks to his emulators and followers, Tsoi is again and again reincarnated, degenerating from a prophet into an unliving, undead ghost, imprisoned in the purgatory of capitalism (just like his shameless but sincere surrogate Roma Legend in Chapiteau Show). Until the spell “Tsoi lives!” disappears from stairwells and the walls of residential buildings, his ghost shall find no peace.

Translated, from the Russian, by Thomas H. Campbell

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