Venya D’rkin

Venya D’rkin / Веня Д’ркин

Published: September 28, 2016

Venya D’rkin (Веня Д’ркин; originally Aleksandr Litvinov, Александр Литвинов) was a Ukrainian (Russian-speaking) poet, songwriter, musician, artist, and storyteller, and one of the later generation of bards. He had a much more informal, unpolished image than some other recent musicians, showing his truly countercultural ethos.

D’rkin grew up in a small mining town near Luhansk. He started writing poetry and learning to play the guitar when he was young, then studied in Donetsk and Luhansk and did his army service. His music career started at the tail end of the USSR, when he founded the group Come On, Come On (Давай, давай), and he then began appearing at music festivals—under the names Sasha and Drantya—over the next few years. A classmate gave him the name Drkin in the mid-’90s, and he added the apostrophe himself, though it’s unclear what it actually means.

D’rkin’s music career became more significant  in the fall of 1996, when all of a sudden his concerts began to attract real attention and he released two albums. But in 1997, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and he continued to play concerts while undergoing treatment. He faded from the scene over the next few years, hiding out in some friends’ apartment but continuing to record music from their living room, living through multiple other health crises. He died in August 1999 at the age of 29.

D’rkin’s musical output spans more than fifteen albums, including self-produced ones and concert recordings, and more than 300 songs. Many additional albums of his work were released posthumously. There is now a yearly music festival in his honor, DrFest, and the DrDom (“Dr House”), which collects his creative works and stands as an online monument to him.

Find Venya D’rkin on Amazon


“Swallow” (“Ласточка”), 1993:

Lyrics for “Ласточка”:

Летели ласточки летели в круг
Да пили ласточки воду из рук
А пропивали рябинову гроздь
И проклевали ладони насквозь
И побежала вода в песок
Никто не думал ее держать
Кому-то сладок рябины сок
Кому-то трудно за ней успеть
Лети лети моя ласточка пулей в висок
Лети лети моя девочка вали меня с ног
Лети лети мое зернышко не дай мне срок
Подумать о том что я мог
и что не успел
Когда луна любовница
Когда земля кормилица
Не детям сказка пишется
Не слухом песни полнятся
Иссиня-черные про то где мы
И желторотые про то как я
И белогрудые что не про нас
Глаза бездонные глоток воды
Лети лети моя ласточка пулей в висок
Лети лети моя девочка вали меня с ног
Лети лети мое зернышко не дай мне срок
Подумать о том что я мог
и что не успел


“Nothing Happened” (“Ничего не случилось”), 1999:

Lyrics for “Ничего не случилось”:

Мы снова в порванных джинсах.
Слышал, была война?
Видел в квадрате сырость,
Или она в клетчатом пончо?
Но ничего не случилось.
Как это всё не ново…
Продолжаю желать жить
Вопреки здравому смыслу.
А что ли взять
Волос индейских мумий?
И спать
В вертикальных полях
Далеких своих утешений?
Как некстати
Виляет хвостом искушенье
Уберечься забытым заклятьем.
И заманить душистым чаем
в желанный плен,
И приковать навек
цепями моей любви
И путешественников по карте,
И романтиков у камина,
И пришельцев с соседних кухонь
С беспрерывным стажем собачьей жизни.


Find Venya D’rkin on Amazon

About the author

Julie Hersh

Julie studied Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk and before that, Bishkek, with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar

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