Andrei Razin may be one of Russia’s most famous orphans. Raised in two separate Russian orphanages, the 49 year-old musician, producer, and occasional local public official went on to manage one of the country’s biggest pop music acts of the late 1980s and early ’90s.
Now, the man who gave Russia the boy band Laskovy Mai (Tender May) has joined the national political fray with the ruling United Russia Party. He is seemingly there for one reason: to advocate for Russia’s tens of thousands of orphans.
On February 4, Razin was officially welcomed into the political party in an event at Orphanage No. 12 in Moscow. The event was part of United Russia’s push to put itself at the forefront of the debate over the banning of adoptions of Russian children by American families. The ban went into effect on January 1, 2013, and has received an avalanche of attention after the death of a 3-year-old Russian adoptee in Texas.
United Russia announced on January 23 that Razin would cooperate with the party on children’s issues, and it took only a few days to get him out into the spotlight. A video crew from lenta.ru spent some time with Razin and filmed the event at the Moscow orphanage where he received his United Russia membership card.
Razin was raised in two separate orphanages in the Stavropol region of southern Russia. He left state care in 1979 — at the age of 16 — when he joined the Communist Youth League and became a bricklayer. He did a short stint in the Soviet Army, after which his artistic career launched.
In 1988, while working for the USSR’s Culture Ministry, Razin produced a pop group comprised of members who had been orphans in Russian orphanages — Laskovy Mai. The group became a hit. In the Lenta.ru video, Razin says of the group:
“One in five people, including small children and old people, went to a Laskovy Mai concert. Nobody has been able to beat this record until now — not Michael Jackson, may he rest in peace, not the Beatles, not any other performers in the world have done what the boys from an orphanage did. This is exactly why we have now gathered all our strength around the United Russia party because United Russia is the locomotive that helps orphans in real terms.”
Razin both managed and sang with the group — which continues to tour (if any readers caught the January 6 show in Yakutsk and would like to share some footage, please contact us). By the looks of the video page on the group’s website, people are still going to shows. We were unable to find sales numbers for his book about Laskovy Mai, however.
If his statements in the Lenta.ru video are any indication, Razin seems likely to tout the issue of Russian orphans in his artistic endeavors.
“This is my subject,” he says. “I’ve lived with it for 50 years. I was in a children’s home from the age of 12 months so I have been involved in these issues since I was a small kid. I made my first complaint to the prosecutor’s office [about the treatment of orphans] when I was 12. I have 38 years of experience in defending orphans. No one else has this kind of experience.”
Although it’s easy to joke about late Soviet dance pop music, Russia’s orphans could probably do worse than have someone with a profile like Razin trumpeting their cause. As he said at the Moscow orphanage, he has been involved with Russian children’s homes his entire life and likely knows firsthand just how poor the conditions at orphanages can be.
A strong supporter of the ban on foreign adoptions, Razin says he was motivated to join United Russia almost exclusively to address children’s issues in the country.
In addition to his political experience in the regional Duma in southern Russia, Razin also has some campaign experience — in Belarus. In 2011, Razin said that he had played an essential role in the coming to power of Belarus’s strongman leader, Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Apparently Laskovy Mai even played a show in support of Lukashenka during the 2010 presidential campaign in the city of Grodno.
WATCH: Laskovy Mai performs “Pink Nights” in 2010
WATCH: Laskovy Mai performs “Pink Nights” (undated)
WATCH: The song that started it all: “White Roses” (undated)
— Zach Peterson Pavel Butorin