when Klaus Meine, lead singer of the Scorpions, sang "Wind of Change"
at the Kremlin Palace on Thursday night, listening front and center was the man
who has called the Soviet breakup the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe
of the 20th century."
Vladimir Putin was among scores of former KGB and current Federal Security
Service officers watching the German hard rock band perform for Security
Services Day, which commemorates the Bolshevik founding of the secret police 90
said he wrote "Wind of Change" after being inspired by changes he
sensed while visiting Moscow during the perestroika years. Those changes helped
set in motion the democratic forces that led to the Soviet Union's demise.
follow the Moskva, down to Gorky Park, listening to the wind of change,"
Meine sang Thursday to the packed auditorium. Rossia state television, which
broadcast the concert live, showed officers applauding appreciatively at the
end of the song.
in an interview Friday, Meine said he had no idea that the concert was for a
holiday associated with the security services. "We were told this would be
a very special Christmas occasion," Meine said by telephone before
boarding a plane to Germany at Sheremetyevo Airport.
band did know that the gig would be "an internal Kremlin event," he
band learned about the concert during its world tour, which it wrapped up with
three concerts in India earlier this month, Meine said. "Our Moscow
promoter asked us if we could perform for a special concert with nationwide
television coverage, and we said yes," Meine said.
weeks after Meine wrote "Wind of Change" in 1989, the Berlin Wall
fell. Putin was a KGB agent stationed in East Germany when the wall came down.
concert also featured violinist Vanessa Mae, legendary guitarist Carlos
Santana, renowned Russian baritone Dmitry Khvorostovsky and the Sretensky
Monastery choir. Soviet security services arrested, shot and tortured thousands
of church leaders in the 1920s and 1930s.
was shown in the front row along with first deputy prime minister and fellow
former KGB officer Sergei Ivanov, Federal Security Service chief Nikolai
Patrushev, Foreign Intelligence Service chief Mikhail Fradkov, Prime Minister
Viktor Zubkov and First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an avowed
hard-rock fan whom Putin has backed as the next president.
said he had not noticed Putin or the other senior officials in the audience.
"There were so many floodlights. We really could not see them," he
said, however, that audiences at the group's concerts tended to be livelier
than Thursday's crowd. "This was not like our last concerts in India with
45,000 people," he said.
on Thursday praised the security services and said their ranks were growing
stronger. He alluded to ongoing infighting, insisting that the security
services obey the law and protect citizens' rights.
the activities of the security organizations must be based strictly on the
norms and letter of the law," Putin said in televised remarks.
Dec. 20 holiday is a time "to remember the heroic pages in the history of
the country's special services," he said.
78 percent of the political elite under Putin is affiliated with the security
services and military, and 26 percent have direct experience working for the
security services, said Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a sociologist who tracks Kremlin
politics and the security services.
services officers across the country celebrated their day Thursday, many
raising a glass to the memory of Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Cheka, a
precursor to the KGB, and to Yury Andropov, the longest-serving KGB chief, an
FSB spokesman said.
was in a good mood Thursday," he said.
Duma Deputy Andrei Lugovoi, a former security services agent accused in Britain
of murdering former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, called the holiday
"an important celebration." Lugovoi said he was not invited to
musicians in the past have unwittingly played at political events. In November
1995, an agitated and embarrassed Glenn Hughes, former bassist of the rock
group Deep Purple, said he was "mortified" to discover that a concert
he was giving was connected to the campaign of Our Home Is Russia, a political
movement led by then-Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. MC Hammer was among
the other acts signed up to play at events organized by Our Home Is Russia.
concert was not the first time the Scorpions have performed "Wind of
Change" at the Kremlin. In December 1991, the group played the song for
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, whom they presented with $62,500 in
humanitarian aid. The band has also recorded a version of the song in Russian.
refused to say whether the Scorpions would have performed if they had known the
concert was for the security services. "This is a moot point because we
did not know," he said.
whether the band would perform if invited for the holiday next year, Meine said
he would not plan so far ahead.
are going on tour in Russia next spring or summer," he said. "I
cannot say what else we will do in 2008."