Andrei Yurevich Solomin, aged 21 and given to rock music, joined the Soviet fishing fleet because he did not want to go to Afghanistan. He deserted in the Canary Islands on Oct. 13 because he wanted to go to the United States and write a rock musical.
Sketches that Solomin had worked out for the show were mostly in the notebooks that he left aboard ship, and the captain of the Nina Olinova refused to hand them over when he went to the Las Palmas police headquarters to demand Solomin's return. Solomin has since filled many pages with new ideas.
The outline of the plot is that five lads grow up in the town of Yeisk, which is on the Sea of Azov and is Solomin's home town, form a rock band and then get drafted to Afghanistan, where one is killed.
Solomin is in Madrid awaiting the relevant documents issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that will permit him to apply for a U.S. visa. The Spanish Red Cross has in the meantime given him pocket money and room and board in a hostel.
Any initial security interest declined rapidly. "I wasn't important enough for interrogations," said Solomin.
"He's just a nice kid who likes rock music," said an intelligence source. "Routine and uninteresting," said another who has experience in interviewing seamen jumping ship in the Canaries.
But if Solomin is an example of Soviet youth, Moscow faces a lot of problems.
He did not mention love and flowers and he has never heard of "Hair." But his musical project has the marks of that staged peace chant. "It's about youth, about youth up against the system and its antiwar and against Afghanistan," he said.
The show is about listening to zapadni rock, the banned western music that Solomin and his chums in Yeisk listened to on the Voice of America and the BBC, and it is about making tapes and trying to reproduce the sounds and rhythms.
"Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, Pink Floyd and many, many more. I heard all of them," he said.
Solomin's father gave him a radio when he was 14. The father works as a machine operator that manufactures printing equipment. The radio, Solomin reckoned, cost 150 rubles, which was half his father's monthly wage and its short-wave reception was more than adequate.
"My parents didn't like me listening, they told me it was all western lies and propaganda, but they never stopped me," said Solomin. Neither of his parents is a Communist Party member. "Really they were afraid," said Solomin. "They are the product of Stalinism."
At 16, what Solomin called "doubts about the system" set in. The catalyst was listening on his radio, alone or with his friends, to chapters of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago" and "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich."
"I couldn't see how Solzhenitsyn was banned and how these books couldn't be bought," Solomin said. "Solzhenitsyn and other writers became more and more interesting because at school, studying party history, I and others realized that the teachers were covering up on Stalinism."
Solomin by this time was contributing to the local Yeisk newspaper, Priazovskie Stepi. He occasionally managed to have the editor assign him stories on a local cooperative farm. Disenchantment set in when he was warned off writing about rock music.
"Touch rock music and it's touching politics," a senior reporter on Priazovskie Stepi told him. "Anything that's new is dangerous." The reporter, who was a party member and had taken Solomin under his wing, ended up pleading: "If you insist on writing such things, I'll lose my job and my party membership."
When Solomin finished school and was eligible for military service, the Afghanistan intervention was in full swing. His decision to study to be a mechanic at the industrial finishing school in Yeisk, a technical college with a good reputation, was a draft dodge.
"I wasn't the only one at school who was trying to avoid Afghanistan. Lots of others were hoping to get medical certificates and enrolling for specialized courses like me."
The apparent scramble to escape conscription was fueled by a story told by a Yeisk boy who was caught in an ambush when driving a truck to Kabul in a convoy. The soldier, a school friend of Solomin's, told of horrific crossfire and of many killed before helicopter gunships arrived to clear the way for the convoy.
After he graduated from technical college, Solomin spent a month and a half at the Odessa naval base early this year. Then he was finally assigned to the fishing fleet.
Solomin told nobody he was defecting.
"I was terrified I would be stopped trying to leave the ship, I was terrified the Spanish police would hand me back," said Solomin. He left the ship two days after he arrived and the day before it sailed.
Fear now has to do with his family. He pushed it aside and talked again about "this group of young people, like me in Yeisk, who develop in music away from Soviet culture, who don't know why they are fighting in Afghanistan."