Yanka Dyagileva

From Unearthing The Music

Yanka Dyagileva in Leningrad, 1989. Photo by Oleg Zotov

Yana Stanislavovna "Yanka" Dyagileva (Russian: Яна Станиславовна Дягилева; 4 September 1966 – c. 9 May 1991) was a Russian poet and singer-songwriter and one of the most popular figures of her time in Russia's underground punk scene. She both played solo and performed with others, including Yegor Letov and bands Grazhdanskaya Oborona and Velikiye Oktyabri ("Great Octobers"). Dyagileva was greatly influenced by Letov and Alexander Bashlachev, who were her friends. Her songs explored themes of desperation and depression, punk-style nihilism, and folk-like lamentations. Yanka was notoriously uninterested in self-promotion, rarely giving interviews and rejecting an offer by the state label Melodiya to release her albums. Her tragic death in 1991 has been considered as a symbolic end of Siberian punk scene.[1]


Yanka (born Yana) Dyagileva was born on 4 September 1966, in Novosibirsk, USSR to Stanislav Dyagilev and Galina Dyagileva, both engineers. She was of Russian, Ukrainian and Czech origin.[2] In 1973 she attended public school and studied piano for a year at a music school before quitting. This sparked her interest in the guitar. While still in school Yanka started writing poems (which have since been lost) and performing, singing and playing guitar in school talent shows. In 1984 she entered the Novosibirsk Institute of Water Transport Engineers, but dropped out in her sophomore year. During this period she performed with the political band AMIGO. The earliest of Yanka's poetry that has survived is from 1985. In December 1985 she traveled to Leningrad, where she may have met Alexander Bashlachev. In October 1986 Yanka's mother died of cancer.

In April 1987, Yanka met Yegor Letov and joined his band Grazhdanskaya Oborona (Gr.Ob.). From 1988–1990 Yanka toured and performed with the band. She recorded her first album Not Allowed (Russian: Не положено) in January 1988. Her first performance before a large audience took place on 24 June 1988, at a punk festival in Tyumen, recorded in the bootleg album To the Drop-Outs (Russian: Деклассированным элементам). In 1989 Yanka performed in Leningrad for the first time as part of a concert produced by Sergei Firsov, who became Yanka and Gr.Ob.'s first producer.[3] Yanka's album Sold! (Russian: Продано!) was recorded in Firsov's apartment. Yanka's final known public appearances took place in November 1990 in Irkutsk, Angarsk, and Leningrad. Her final live concert recording took place in Irkutsk on 10 November 1990. Several more performances were planned for February 1991 in Irkutsk; it is unknown if they ever took place. At the end of February 1991 Yanka recorded her last songs in a Novosibirsk Electro-Technical Institute dormitory: "Legs [Feet] Above the Ground" (Russian: Выше ноги от земли), "Five-Kopeck Coin in the Road" (Russian: На дороге пятак), "About Little Devils" (Russian: Про чёртиков), and "Water Will Come" (Russian: Придёт вода).

Yanka Dyagileva in Zelenograd. 1 September 1990.

9 May 1991 is accepted as Yanka's official date of death. That evening she left her family's countryside home outside Novosibirsk and didn't return. Her body was found by a fisherman on 17 May in the Inya River. She was presumed to have drowned near Novorodnikovo Train Station and been carried 40 kilometers by the current. On 19 May she was buried in Novosibirsk's Zayeltsovskoye Cemetery.[4]

The exact time, place, and conditions surrounding Yanka's death are still unknown. Some believe that she committed suicide, others that she drowned accidentally. Her death was ruled an accident based on the forensic evidence. Proponents of the theory that she committed suicide point to the fact that her step-brother and close friend Sergei Shurakov had just died of causes related to medical malpractice on 23 April 1991, affecting her deeply. There were also rumors that Yanka was murdered, as it was alleged that her skull had been fractured and there was no water in her lungs (indicating that she died before falling in the river). There was no formal investigation into this allegation. Unconfirmed accounts indicate that a few of Yanka's close friends received postcards from her on 10 May 1991. The text was (approximately): "May everything be good with you. I love you very much. May God protect you from misfortune."

Yanka and her music became more widely known across Russia after her death.


  • 1988 - Ne polozheno (Not Allowed)
  • 1988 - Deklassirovannim elementam (To the Fringe Elements)
  • 1988 - Live in Kurgan
  • 1989 - Prodano! (Sold!)
  • 1989 - Krasnogvardeyskaya (Live in Moscow) - Named after the Moscow Metro station. A.k.a. "Akustika".
  • 1989 - Live in Kharkov (Ukraine)
  • 1989 - Domoi! (Going home!)
  • 1989 - Angedonia ("Anhedonia")
  • 1990 - Yanka & Grazhdanskaya Oborona live in MEI
  • 1991 - Styd i Sram (Shame and Reproach) - There are two variants of this album, one containing four acoustic songs. The other is a compilation with remastering done by Letov; the compilation contains seven songs, mostly electrified (not acoustic).


External links

Text adapted from Wikipedia.