The Heartbreaker remembered in Russia

Michael Jackson was a symbol of success and controversy around the world. The singing legend was once a flamboyant voice from the West for his fans in Russia.

It was raining cats and dogs during Michael Jackson’s historic performance in the Russian capital in 1993. One of Jackson’s best songs “Stranger in Moscow” was inspired by his first-ever visit to Russia on September 15.


Single by Michael Jackson from the album 'History'

“I was wandering in the rain
Mask of life, feelin' insane
Swift and sudden fall from grace
Sunny days seem far away
Kremlin's shadow belittlin' me
Stalin's tomb won't let me be
On and on and on it came
Wish the rain would just let me…”

A prisoner of his fame, he was constantly watched and followed by an army of fans wherever he went. Jackson was universally known as The King of Pop, but the phenomenon of his popularity in Russia was somewhat different from the rest of the world.

It wasn’t just the fortune, success, fame, influence and charm of the singing legend. One of the most famous persons in the world, Jackson was akin to a UFO for millions of Russians, recognizable by his iconic moonwalk moves.

Michael Jackson’s show in Moscow cost its organizers one million dollars. Just six days after his historic concert in early autumn, a bloody coup d’etat attempt happened in Moscow. Did the greatest entertainer of all time bring with him another western wind of change?

The way Moscow accepted Jackson could be described as close to hysteria. Jackson's fans painted his name all over a monument to Karl Marks in the center of the Moscow, right next to the hotel where Michael stayed.

His second – and last show in Russia – took place three years later, in 1996 at Moscow’s Dinamo stadium and drew tens of thousands of fans.

“You know we've been deprived of so many things for so many years that his music opened a whole new world for us,”
said another Jackson admirer, Valentina Gromova. “There was so much energy in him.”

Jackson had experienced as much fame as he ever wanted to. But fame also meant millions of people had no idea of who he really was. His fans in Russia shared their opinions.

“He was one of the most famous artists in modern time.”

“My first memories of Michael Jackson are from 1983, the Grammy awards. From that time I just fell in love with music.”

“When we were little kids we really liked Michael Jackson. We are deeply saddened.”

“I heard about him in 1980, when there was still the Soviet Union. But I could never have imagined that there would be one day when the iron curtain would fall and we’d see the live Michael Jackson. He came to Moscow twice and I attended the concert. That was amazing, that was like a dream come true.”

Every single corner in Pavel Talalaev’s apartment is a reminder of the King of Pop. For more than 20 years, his love for Michael Jackson has been both his profession and lifestyle.

“I started dancing to his music when I was nine years old,” recalls Talalaev, a Michael Jackson look-alike. “He was so popular in Russia at the end of the 80s that everyone cheered when they saw me dressed up like Michael somewhere in the subway.”

Thousands of his fans in Russia have been bringing flowers and toys to the American Embassy in Moscow to pay tribute to the pop star.