A Beatles super-fan from Russia who turned his flat into a museum in honour of the band has died in St Petersburg following a fall. He was 73-years-old.
Kolya Vasin was well known as Russia’s biggest Beatles fan during the Soviet period at a time when the communist authorities saw popular Western music as subversive. He discovered the music of The Beatles via bootleg recordings.
In an interview with The Observer in 2013, Vasin recalled how he was repeatedly in trouble with the Soviet authorities because of his love for the band.
He said: “I was arrested many times, accused of ‘breaching social order’. They said anyone who listened to the Beatles was spreading western propaganda.”
In the same interview, Vasin also recalled being grabbed by a policeman who spotted his long hair. “I was crying from the pain, but I had to keep silent. I was afraid the man would drag me off to prison,” Vasin recalled.
He added that The Beatles’ music had given him “all the adventures of [his] life”. He continued to follow the band despite the risk of being arrested.
He added: “They said anyone who listened to the Beatles was spreading western propaganda…When anyone said anything against them, we knew just what that person was worth. The authorities, our teachers, even our parents, became idiots to us.”
Whilst most Beatles fans in the former Soviet Union had difficulty in hearing their favourite band’s music, Vasin ensured many fans subsequently could listen to them thanks to his extensive collection of Beatles recordings, photos, and memorabilia which is regarded as one of the largest fan-based collections in the world.
Vasin also held parties in his flat to celebrate the birthdays of each of The Beatles; many fans who couldn’t access the music of the band were able to do so at these gatherings.
Vasin began collecting Beatles albums and memorabilia in the 1960’s. According to the BBC, his most treasured possession was a record signed by both John Lennon and Yoko Ono – ‘Live Peace in Toronto’.
In 1970, Vasin sent a birthday telegram to Lennon who subsequently picked it out from thousands of fan letters. As a thank you, Lennon sent Vasin the signed album, something the super-fan described as “divine intervention.”
Vasin continued to collect Beatles memorabilia for a further 50 years and had ambitions to build a “temple of love” in St Petersburg as a tribute to John Lennon. The project never came to fruition despite city officials finding a site for the tribute.
He also wrote a book about the impact of the Beatles music on young people growing up behind the Iron Curtain titled Rock on the Russian Bones.
Tributes to Vasin continue to come in on social media. One of his friends on Facebook, Nick Barabanov wrote that Nikolai (Kolya) Vasin had “gone to join John Lennon and George Harrison. May they have a happy and bright time there!”