Plans to stage a concert by Russian rapper Morgenshtern in Kyrgyzstan have been shelved following a restraining order issued by the Culture Ministry.
Officials said that they acted to prevent the June 23 performance as they felt it would be in violation of laws banning content “aimed at propagandizing war, violence and cruelty, racial, ethnic and religious hostility, and pornography.”
The halt appears to also have been a response to outraged public sentiment in some quarters.
Management at Alga Fest, the event at which Morgenshtern was schedule to perform, said on their Instagram account that they had been inundated with messages calling for the concert to be cancelled. They also got death threats.
Eurasianet reached one of the people who contacted Alga Fest. The 25-year-old Bishkek resident, who requested anonymity, said he was prompted to send his message after looking up lyrics to Morgenshtern’s songs online. He cited two songs containing misogynistic and sexually violent imagery as the basis for his objections.
“I saw violence against women in his songs. This is not in line with our culture and mentality. What will happen tomorrow is that our youths will go and treat women the same way,” the man said.
MPs building a brand for themselves as morality mavens have likewise joined in the chorus.
“You’re granting entry to Kyrgyzstan to people like him. He looks like a devil, with all those tattoos of devils all over his body,” Shailoobek Atazov said in parliament, addressing Culture Ministry officials before the restraining order was adopted. “All you need is money. But you have no need for Kyrgyzstan’s youth?”
Morgenshtern, whose full legal name is Alisher Morgenshtern, is enormously popular in his native Russia, but he has had trouble there too. In May 2022, the Russian authorities designated him a “foreign agent” on the grounds that he had engaged in political activity while receiving an income from sources overseas. The designation appears to have been in reprisal to the singer’s opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Morgenshtern is only the latest Russian artist to receive rough treatment in Kyrgyzstan. Earlier this month, the band Pornofilmy announced that their planned performance in the country had been canceled following pressure from Kyrgyz security services.
On June 15, it was reported that Belarusian-Russian band Bi-2 had nixed the Kyrgyz leg of their Central Asia tour. Organizers claimed the cancellation was prompted by unspecified tax issues with their Kazakh partners.
In May, the Russian Justice Ministry added the lead singer of Bi-2 to its list of so-called foreign agents, also apparently in response to his public statement opposing the Ukraine invasion.
Ayzirek Imanaliyeva is a journalist based in Bishkek.