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Sergey Kuryokhin: Improvisations and Performances
Empire and Magic. Sergey Kuryokhin's “Pop-Mekhanika No. 418” (1995)
Second, revised version 11 March 2020 (First version 13 August 2018)
page 1 • Introduction
Note on transliteration and quotations.
In the footnotes, Russian titles have been transliterated. English translations of titles are provided in round brackets, while the original Russian titles are given in square brackets.
Transliteration follows the Library of Congress system, but without diacritics and two-letter tie characters. For example, both и and й are transcribed as i (not as ī and ĭ), ё as e, and ю and я as iu and ia, respectively.
This simplified Library of Congress system is today widely used in scientific publications, supersedeing the older transliteration systems. Nevertheless, the following older forms have been retained for established surnames: Kuryokhin, Florensky, Tarkovsky, and Dostoyevsky in preference to Kurëkhin, Florenskii, Tarkovskii, and Dostoevskii; the transliteration of first names likewise follows long-established practise.Where English texts are quoted – some of which were written by non-native speakers – the original grammar and spelling have been retained, though blatent errors in typography and punctuation have been corrected (without the addition of a footnote). Any bold type or italics applied to quotations were also present in the original text.
I would like to express my gratitude to Tatiana Ziulikova for her valuable help in translating some of the original Russian quotations, and my very great appreciation to Kieran Scarffe, who checked, and in places revised, all translations from the Russian, and also took on the task of copy-editing this, the second version of my text – a task made all the more complex by virtue of the fact that the first version of this paper was published in 2018 without the support of a copy editor.Anyone using English as a second language is aware of the chasm between a native speaker's linguistic competence and that of a non-native speaker – even that of a highly-proficient non-native speaker. Although the changes that are evident in this second version do not affect the main concept of the paper, Kieran's meticulous copy-reading of my text, as well as his readiness to discuss with me even the minutest details and nuances, led me to reconsider a number of my ideas and thoughts. Kieran's suggestions proved to be invaluable in putting forward these ideas with increased clarity and precision, and it is my earnest hope that this revised version will make it easier for the reader to follow my line of reasoning.
page 1 • Introduction
This, the third part of my research dedicated to Sergey Kuryokhin and his “Pop-Mekhanika” performances (1984-1995) focuses on a single performance that was also to become his last: Pop-Mekhanika No. 418, performed in Saint Petersburg on 23 September 1995.
Sergey Kuryokhin used Pop-Mekhanika No. 418 to give his long-term project a political-magical charge in that it promoted both Alexander Dugin’s candidature to the Duma and Aleister Crowley's status as a magician; the full title of this performance was Pop-Mekhanika No. 418. Kuryokhin in support of Dugin. In memory of A. Crowley. The concert itself and, in particular, the appearance on stage of the two founders of the National Bolshevik Party, Eduard Limonov and Alexander Dugin, shocked Kuryokhin’s friends and divided opinion among his fans and admirers.
Fragments of the concert are available on YouTube, and it can be more fully reconstructed with the aid of a separate video that documents the Helsinki performance of Pop-Mekhanika, which took place on 1 September 1995 – which was effectively a rehearsal for PM No 418, though it lacked the speech elements. On first examination, there does not seem to be any major difference with regard to earlier PM performances apart from the way they were perhaps more grandiose and dramatic than previous shows and the fact they had been planned with more care. But this would be insufficient to explain the scandal created by PM No 418 in Saint Petersburg. After all, the musicians and artists – most of whom were regulars when it came to PM performances – were playing before a home crowd that expected provocation!
However, the provocation in question was of a different nature: Kuryokhin was staging his new profession of faith, combining a political message with a number of magical – Crowleyan – elements.
This distinguished PM No. 418 from “traditional” PM performances – carnivalesque shows pinpointed at audiences looking for crazy entertainment. To be precise, the supplemental provocation had begun with a press conference in May 1995, at which Kuryokhin had promoted Dugin and Limonov along with their National Bolshevik Party (NBP) – which he regarded as an avant-garde party.
In this concluding part of my research, I will try to analyse the main ideas that attracted Kuryokhin to the NBP and to Crowley at that moment in his life. The texts read on stage during PM No 418 stand at the forefront of my analysis. They were written by Dugin and Crowley and were presented by Limonov and Dugin, respectively. Their speeches – or at least the greater part thereof, so it seems – form part of the YouTube video.
I venture that the performance’s visual effects were of greater significance to the public than the speeches. There is a simple reason for this assumption: the audience most certainly didn’t understand the fragment read out in French and could hardly have made any sense of the rest. Yet Dugin’s and Crowley’s texts can lead us towards some of the less obvious sources of Kuryokhin’s new ideology – assuming we consider the NBP programme as the more obvious source. While examining these texts, I have tried to relate them to Kuryokhin’s personal impulses, which I have been able to access via a number of specific books, articles and interviews.
Although I cannot say which of Crowley’s texts Kuryokhin actually knew or how much he knew of them through his acquaintance with Dugin, I believe that it is possible to state with a certain degree of objectivity that three points were crucial for Kuryokhin’s assimilation of Dugin’s and Crowley’s ideas:
– the magical paradigm shift (Crowley) and Chaos Magic (presented by Dugin), both of which corresponded to Kuryokhin’s free, “antithetical” thinking
– Dugin’s concept of empire, including the NPB’s totalitarism and anti-Americanism, together with Crowley’s hierarchical system (“…there is the master and there is the slave…”) – both of which corresponded to Kuryokhin’s elitist thinking
– the coming of the new aeon, empowering human beings to carry out their true will (Crowley), which additionally influenced the NBP programme.
The first point can be summarised as magical thinking. Magical thinking, as defined by the Oxford “Dictionary of Psychology” equals “Thinking that one’s thoughts on their own can bring about effects in the world or that thinking something amounts to doing it.” But this definition would apply to a prayer, as well; the “magicality” of the word via a prayer will actually be discussed in Chapter Eleven.
The article in the Encyclopædia Britannica is more elaborate:
Though the examples provided seem to have been deliberately chosen so as to exaggerate the scale of the effect, in order to make magical thinking appear fanciful, they nonetheless befit Crowley’s definition of magic – “the control of new worlds on new planes”. Together, the magical paradigm shift and Chaos Magic constitute a category of magical thinking requiring complete freedom in terms of an individual’s ability to change their mindset; they thus correspond to Kurykhin’s antithetical thinking (while also adding a component of power).
The second point in the aforementioned list can then be categorised as imperial thinking – something which also encapsulates the concept of “power” – while the third offers a prospect for the future and may be understood as “the path to individual freedom”.
Representing power as well as individual freedom, these three points contradict and support each other at the same time, as expressed in Crowley’s statement, “The absolute rule of the state shall be a function of the absolute liberty of each individual will”. These inherent contradictions, also reflected in the NBP's programme, did not allow for the construction of a consistent world view. However, Kuryokhin did not mind the apparent inconsistency; quite the contrary: it gave him room for manœuvre, offering him countless possibilities in terms of making provocative statements. Provocation came as second nature to Kuryokhin!
For Kuryokhin and Dugin, the absolute liberty of the individual and the absolute rule of the state “somehow” went together. Yet this somehow poses a problem only if we attempt to judge these ideas using logic. This becomes particularly evident with Dugin’s “hedgehog-type” model of empire – internal freedom and external empire, defended by missiles”.
Furthermore, Dugin attempts to undergird his imperial concept of Russia by applying his interpretation of Christian Orthodoxy, whereby he claims to possess an understanding of a kind with which ‟the most sophisticated and profound Western philosophies pale in comparison”. The subtleties of the arguments are later examined in the chapter entitled “Dugin and the salvation of mankind”.
The third point, the coming of the new aeon, was the precondition for the development of a new concept of an “ideal” society. According to Crowley, the aeon of Osiris ended in 1904 – this was communicated to him by an angel – to give way to the new aeon of Horus, supposedly a period in which people could find and manifest their “true will”. This date corresponds to the Russian Revolution of 1905, considered to be the forerunner of the October Revolution in 1917. Kuryokhin came across Crowley’s religion after the end of the Soviet Union, which had once promised that “The Great October Socialist Revolution ushered in a new era in the history of mankind”. In this way, Crowley helped explain why – in Kuryokhin’s words – “We have come to a moment in which the crisis of art is so evident (indeed, a crisis not only of art, but also of religion, ethics, and morality)”; because, as Kuryokhin continues, “It marks the end of a long epoch in people’s lives.” It appears that it was only at the end of the twentieth century that the old aeon was completely left behind and that the new aeon was poised to emerge – via yet another revolution.
It was the NBP which promised the next revolution: the real revolution. The first point of the 1994 party programme states: “A traditionalist, hierarchical society will be built on the basis of the ideals of spiritual masculinity and social and national justice.”
Kuryokhin added to this the leading role of art, which was to substitute the “leading role of the Marxist-Leninist Party” seen in Soviet times; ironically, Soviet propaganda continued to have an effect on Kuryokhin’s concept of an ideal society. Henceforth, art, “subjected to strict totalitarian dictatorship”, would replace the economy as the determining factor. In Marxist terms, art would become the substructure determining the superstructure – politics.
Kuryokhin was proud of not being pragmatic and called himself a romantic. There has consequently been controversy over whether or not he developed his new, radical and even extremist Weltanschauung, aimed at destroying everything “to a point where things can never be put back together”, in order to have it tested by reality.
Naturally, both Dugin and Limonov believed that Kuryokhin’s commitment to their cause was earnest. His stardom was undoubtedly already enhancing the status of their party, and this, they believed, constituted “a sign of the supreme quality of the National Bolshevik Party”, as Limonov proudly asserted.
Yet, if I had to say which of the two was more important to Kuryokhin, empire or magic, I would plump for Crowley’s magic: I have come to the conclusion that Kuryokhin regarded politics as a branch of magic – and magic as a branch of art.
 Alternative transliterations and translations of “Популярная механика” or “Поп-механика” would be: Pop-mekhanika, Popular Mechanics, or Pop-Mechanics.
 Поп-механика 418. Курехин для Дугина. Памяти А. Кроули.
Kan, Alexander [Aleksandr]. Kurekhin. Shkiper o kapitane (Kuryokhin. What the Skipper says about the Captain) [Курехин. Шкипер о Капитане]
Saint Petersburg, Amfora, 2012, p. 124. PDF for Digital Editions version. Web. 31 July 2018.
 Sergei Kurekhin – Pop-Mekhanika No. 418 (Sergey Kuryokhin – Pop-Mekhanika No. 418) [Сергей Курёхин - Поп-механика № 418] 23 September 1995. Web. 28 July 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoBLYHL3vSA
 Pop-mekhanika v Khelsinki /1995/ (Pop-Mekhanika in Helsinki /1995/) [Поп - механика в Хельсинки /1995/]
1 September 1995. Web. 28 July 2018.
 Colman, Andrew M. A Dictionary of Psychology, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001, fourth edition 2015, p. 436
 Vandenberg, Brain “Magical thinking.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Web 23 September 2019
 For an analysis of Crowley’s defintion of magic or Magick, see Chapter 5: A New Spark in the Life of Pop-Mekhanika: Aleister Crowley.
 Comte de Fénix is one of Crowley’s many pseudonyms
Crowley, Aleister Liber AL vel Legis. (The Book of Law.) Introduction, Chapter V.
Website of O.T.O, Ordo Templi Orientis. Web. 25 July 2018
 See Chapter Four
 в сравнении с которой бледнеют самые изысканные и глубокие западные философские схемы.
Dugin, Alexander [Aleksandr]: Imia moe – topor. (Dostoevskii i metafizika Peterburga) My Name is Axe. (Dostoyevsky and the Metaphysics of St. Petersburg) [Имя мое – топор (Достоевский и метафизика Петербурга)] First published in 1996 in “Nezavisimaia Gazeta”.
Web 25 July 2018 http://arcto.ru/article/104
 Program of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1961. With a Special Preface to the American Edition by N. S. Khrushchev. New York: International Publishers 1963.
 Сейчас наступило такое время, когда кризис искусства настолько очевиден (да и не только искусства - кризис религии, этики, морали!) - это завершается огромная длительная эпоха в жизни людей. Kurykohin at the press conference for PM no. 418.
Polishchuk, Alexander [Aleksandr] “Pop-mekhanika v DK Lensoveta.” (“Pop-Mekhanika at the Lensoviet Palace of Culture.”) [“Поп-механика в ДК Ленсовета.”] Rock Fuzz no. 26, October 1995. Web. 31 July 2018.
 На идеалах духовной мужественности, социальной и национальной справедливости будет построено традиционалистическое, иерархическое общество.
Programme of the National Bolshevik Party (1994)
The party programme is available on the website of the Kaliningrad branch of the NBP, where it is dated 1994. The website is called “NBP BEZ LIMONOVA V KALININGRADE” (The NBP without reference to Limonov in Kaliningrad) [НБП БЕЗ ЛИМОНОВА В КАЛИНГРАДЕ], most likely because various contributions to the website were made between 2002 and 2007, at a time when Limonov had changed his positions. Web. 25 July 2018
A (poor) English translation of the programme is available on the Swedish website Vänsternationell. Web. 25 July 2018
 В искусстве должен быть жесткий тоталитарный диктат.
Kushnir, Alexander [Aleksandr]. Sergei Kurekhin. Bezumnaia mekhanika russkogo roka, (Sergey Kuryokhin. The Crazy Mechanics of Russian Rock) [Сергей Курехин. Безумная механика русского рока], p. 210. Moscow: Bertelsmann Media Moscow, 2013
 всё можно будет так расшатать, что уже ничего потом не собрать будет.
Uploaded 3 August 2018