"Bon Jovi" in the USSR: how it was - about the first "Russian Woodstock"

“All the legal arrangements were in such a mess! Namin recalls. - Nobody knew what to do. So I just used that phrase…”

How was the first in the USSR "Russian Woodstock" with the participation of Bon Jovi and other rock stars

This happened in August 1989, at the Moscow stadium "Luzhniki" Moscow Music Peace Festival became the first in history "Russian Woodstock"! Organized Stas Namin, he gave the Soviet people a real rock and roll, which many only dreamed of ... The festival was attended by such world stars as Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe, Ozzy Osbourne… Today it sounds ridiculous, but then it was significant money - the cost of one ticket was 15 rubles. The first international rock festival on Soviet soil seemed fantastic to everyone, including the people who lived there. The headliners couldn't believe it either. For foreign performers, it all seemed like a mission to fly to the moon ... And all this happened even before in Soviet Union The first McDonald's appeared...

How it all began: the organization of the show

Moscow Music Peace Festival (1989)
Moscow Music Peace Festival (1989)

This was 1989, the time of perestroika, when the communist system was undergoing revolutionary reforms (before it ceased to exist altogether). For two days the bands performed at the first international rock festival in the USSRwhich passed in "Luzhniki". The official name of the concert was Moscow Music Peace Festival, but very soon it began to be called simply and concisely - "Russian Woodstock". Just a year before, no one could have imagined that something like this would happen ...

Jon Bon Jovi dons a Soviet military uniform at the Moscow Peace Festival in the Soviet Union in August 1989
Jon Bon Jovi dons a Soviet military uniform at the Moscow Peace Festival in the Soviet Union in August 1989

Preparations for the festival began after the new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said at an informal meeting: "Everything that is not prohibited by law is allowed." Festival organizer Stas Namin I decided to check how true this is.

“All the legal arrangements were in such a mess! Namin recalls. - Nobody knew what to do. So I just used that phrase…”

Stas Namin, Klaus Meine of the Scorpions, Richard Sambora of Bon Jovi.
Stas Namin, Klaus Meine of the Scorpions, Richard Sambora of Bon Jovi.

In fact, until the very beginning of the festival, no one believed that it would really take place. Everyone was waiting for the “serious guys” from KGB and everything is closed. Rock bands getting ready for the ride to the Soviet Unionas if they were going to the moon. Arrived three weeks before the festival 64 trucks with equipment and everything the groups might need. Then no one really knew what to expect. However, in two days the festival was visited by more than 150,000 people. In addition to the guards, there were soldiers and policemen at the Luzhniki Stadium:

“It felt like we were performing in a military unit,” recalls frontman Mötley Crüe.

"Wild rock and roll" on the Soviet stage

Moscow Music Peace Festival (1989), Luzhniki stadium
Moscow Music Peace Festival (1989), Luzhniki stadium

In fact, it was a charity event to help addicts. Doc McGee recalled how he went out of his way to take away alcohol and other substances from the musicians before they landed in the USSR. But it was hopeless. Sebastian Bach, Skid Row frontman, recalled:

“We couldn't believe how cheap vodka was in the USSR. It only cost a couple of bucks a bottle! So we didn’t eat, we just drank…”

Moscow Music Peace Festival (1989), Sebastian Bach, Skid Row frontman
Moscow Music Peace Festival (1989), Sebastian Bach, Skid Row frontman

born in the West people from adolescence know what a real rock concert is - as soon as they set foot on the floors of bars flooded with beer ... However, the overwhelming majority of those gathered at the stadium that day were more than alien to this kind of spectacle. The audience had no idea how to act. And as the concert went on, one could observe how people begin to delve into, enjoy the concert and even participate in it. It was amazing to watch them enjoy it. Soviet people felt that they were in a place where they could have fun and feel free! The concert was important not only for fans, political relations and social representations of both countries, but also for the musicians themselves. As said Tom Keifer (lead vocalist of the rock band Cinderella) in a 2019 interview:

“It was a special show. People often ask me what was one of the highlights of my career. The Moscow Music Peace Festival is one of them. It was such a special event... It was the first time a rock concert of this magnitude had been held here. It was special for the fans who came, but it was also special for us, it was great to feel it!”

Moscow Music Peace Festival (1989), Scorpions
Moscow Music Peace Festival (1989), Scorpions

This trip to Russia will also inspire members of a German rock band Scorpions for songwriting Winds of Change, which, in turn, will become a hymn to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of Soviet Union

Impressions of foreign rockers from the USSR

Moscow Music Peace Festival (1989), musicians who arrived in Moscow
Moscow Music Peace Festival (1989), musicians who arrived in Moscow

Aside from the cult show, these were also the realities that awaited Western stars when they emerged from Boeing 757 on gray concrete plains Moscow and were met with shocks ... In his interview Ernie Hudson (at that time the guitar technician of the American band Cinderella) recalled being puzzled by people standing in line for products that were so common in USA:

“We see people in line, and we ask: “Why are you standing in line?” They said, "Oh, it's the toilet paper line." Two blocks down, a mile, "Why are these people in line?" "Oh, they're standing in line for milk." It was quite the opposite, compared to what we are used to - going to the grocery store for toilet paper and milk ... "

For Americans image Russia always shown through the prism of the Cold War, the optics of which depicted her as a great enemy. Because of ingrained stereotypes and political tensions, the United States has long considered the USSR enemy territory, agents KGBready to rally and take over American soil. However, as they quickly realized, this was pure political hyperbole. Yes, the military and the KGB were present and they diligently monitored the residents West during their stay, but they also proved to be very grateful for their presence... From the memoirs of the then drummer Skid Row, Rob Affuso:

“Later in the evening, I got up to look at Bon Jovi from the stands, way back. I was sitting there when the soldiers came up to me. I was very nervous. I didn't know what could happen in the next minute... But they came up, laid down their arms, sat down and said: “We want to thank you for coming to our country to bring us rock and roll. Thanks a lot!" And they cried… And I was touched…”–eXNkx6N8


Moscow Music Peace Festival (1989), Luzhniki stadium
Moscow Music Peace Festival (1989), Luzhniki stadium

First international rock festival in a communist state almost a billion people have watched in 60 countries peace! It was the first satellite broadcast MTV live

“What really struck us was the people,” recalls Doc McGee. “They were ready for change…”

To everyone's surprise, no one went to jail in those few days. For the first time in history, people were allowed to lie on the grass of the stadium during a concert. And it was real magic, a holiday for the Soviet people, who could finally feel free ...

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