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 Yanka Diagileva

Born:   September 4, 1966
Deceased:   May 9 (?), 1991

poet, songwriter and singer


Yanka Diagileva, a talented female punk-rocker with tragic fate, was one of the brightest figures of the Russian underground music scene of the late 1980s. Her sincerely desperate songs, expressive of what is known as Russian anguish, became more accessible to general public only after her death and the following release of her records. Her songs, a staggering mixture of Russian folk lamentations, hopelessness and nihilism of punk-rock, and profound message, have come to be classics of the Russian poetical rock.

Yana Stanislavovna Diagileva, known to everyone as Yanka, was born on September 4, 1966 in Novosibirsk, into a family of engineers.

As a schoolgirl, Yana wrote verses (which have not been preserved) and took part in school amateur activities. She also attended a music school majoring in fortepiano, yet in a year she quit it and learned to play the guitar on her own.

In 1984 Yanka for some reason entered the Novosibirsk Water Transportation Engineering Institute, where she became a member of the amateur ensemble of political song and got her first serious concert experience. Yanka’s first well-known verses date back to 1985.

In December 1985 Yanka met Aleksandr Bashlachev at an underground domestic concert (kvartirnik). At first sight SashBash impressed her greatly, that impression having a powerful impact on all her afterlife.

At the end of 1986 Yanka dropped out in her second year of studies. Gradually she started performing her songs for general public.

When singing at domestic concerts and parties, Yanka saw that her songs really came home to listeners and appealed to them. Slowly she was attaining self-confidence and getting rid of hang-ups. She was unbending and becoming more creative.

Yanka first met Yegor Letov in April 1987. One week was enough for her to fall in love with him wholeheartedly and stay with him for a year and a half.


During the period from 1987 to 1988 Yanka wrote most of her famous verses and songs. She dreamt of creating her own band. In the end, however, her creative zeal of that time boiled down to some small inclusions into albums of Yegor Letov’s projects.

Letov was a dictator not only in creative collaboration, but in family life as well. He could kick up a row for her leaving a room at a wrong moment, or give a scolding to her in front of others after a concert.

It is difficult to say how Yanka could bear it all, yet, on the other hand, Yegor also helped her a lot by inspiring her, keeping up her self-confidence and teaching her to work in a record studio.

Yanka’s first acoustic record (and one of her best ones) under the title Ne Polozheno (Not Allowed) was made in Omsk (the native city of Yegor Letov) in January 1988.


February 17, 1988 saw the untimely death of Aleksandr Bashlachev. It was this tragedy that triggered Yanka’s depression streak, which lasted till the end of her life.

From 1988 Yanka gave numerous concerts and kvartirniks and recorded her songs.

In the beginning of 1989 she made an acoustic record that was reissued in 1995 under the title Prodano! (Sold!) On this album she sings solo accompanying herself on guitar. Only the last song, Declassirovannim elementam (To Declassed Elements) they traditionally sing together with Letov.

In 1991 Yanka recorded four acoustic songs, literally brimming over with pain: Vyshe Nogi Ot Zemli (Feet Higher Off the Ground), Na Doroge Pyatak (A Penny on the Road), Pro Chertikov (About Imps), Pridet Voda (Water Will Come). The song Water Will Come recorded in the end of 1990 turned to be her last song. Many consider it as Yanka’s farewell or foretelling.

Yanka had depressive veins before. According to her schoolmates, they occurred when yet at school.

In the evening of May 9, 1991 Yana left her summer cottage in the vicinity of Novosibirsk and never came back. A fisherman found her body in the river, early in the morning on May 17. The investigation never established whether it was an accident or a suicide.


Yana Diagileva was laid to rest at Zayeltsovskoe Cemetery in Novosibirsk.

Not a single record of Yanka was officially released in her lifetime. She did not ever give any interviews, on principle. Following her death there were numerous attempts to analyze her creations in various articles and research works.

In June 1991 Yegor Letov released Yanka’ posthumous album Styd i Sram (Shame and Reproach). Shortly before his death on February 19, 2008 Yegor Letov managed to remaster all Yanka’s albums and several concerts and handed them over to an issuer.

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Tags: Russian music Russian singers    

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