Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Grannies Rock Their Rural World ; Elderly Singers' Success Brings Modernization to Their Russian Village

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Grannies Rock Their Rural World ; Elderly Singers' Success Brings Modernization to Their Russian Village

Article excerpt

The success of a group of "babushki," or grandmothers, has not only changed their lives but also their village of Buranovo, in Russia's Urals. They placed second in this year's Eurovision competition.

For years, Buranovo was a dying village, one of many in the Russian countryside left behind by an oil-driven boom that revitalized drab Soviet cities and drew the young away from the farms that had sustained their parents.

In places like this, collective farms routinely go bankrupt, log houses tilt and sink into the soil, roads become muddy ravines and village stores make much of their money selling vodka. Breaking the cycle of decline is considered difficult, if not impossible.

But 300-year-old Buranovo is proving to be an exception, for the unlikeliest of reasons: a troupe of eight local women, many of them old and stooped, known as the Buranovskiye Babushki, or Grandmothers of Buranovo, who sang their way to instant fame in May during the pop music contest called Eurovision.

The babushki, the oldest of whom is 86, came in second in the annual contest, which pits performers from European countries against one another and holds the continent in thrall each spring.

The little ladies in traditional dresses and kerchiefs put on a rock 'n' roll performance that invited the world to laugh at them, smiling slyly as they shuffled across the stage and belted out their version of a hard-partying anthem, complete with a chorus in English:

"Party for everybody -- dance! Come on and dance! Come on and dance!

"Come on and boom boom!"

A video of the performance became a hit on the Web, adding to the more than 100 million television viewers who saw their act.

Now, the women's good fortune is transforming not only their lives, but also Buranovo. In appreciation of the group's near victory, the local government is building a water pipeline, installing streetlights and high-speed Internet for the village's sole school and laying new gravel on the main roads.

"God forgot this place before the grannies sang," Aleksandr Malkov said in a front yard as he watched flatbed trucks roll down the street with pipe for the new waterworks.

It is difficult to overstate the impact of such improvements.

Like much of the Russian countryside, Buranovo is at once picturesque and a scene of rural penury. Residents subsist on dairy farming, garden plots and food gathered in the forest, like honey and mushrooms. On a recent visit, the front yards held gigantic stacks of split birch firewood. Most of the village never had running water.

It all began with a miracle, said Olga N. Tuktareva, the leader of the singing group, who is 43 and in fact is not a grandmother yet. …

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