Warsaw Uprising: Kortatu’s incendiary visit to 1980s Poland

Western punk bands didn’t get to play the Polish People’s Republic too often back in the 80s, not to mention bands linked to skinhead culture. In August 1987, however, Kortatu from Basque Country were invited to play at Róbrege, a 3-day festival in Warsaw largely featuring native punk, reggae and new wave acts. Although a Basque independentist band with radical left-wing leanings, Kortatu thus appeared at a festival that was generally perceived as a kind of cultural opposition against the socialist government. And even though Kortatu were something of a skinhead group – cropped hair, Harringtons and DMs visually accompanied their punk, ska, and reggae hybrid – many say that the Polish skinheads who came to Róbrege were more interested in disrupting the festival than they were in dancing. Some even go as far as to imply that the skins were operating in cahoots with the state security services…

These are just some of the contradictions that made it seem like an interesting event to explore. Although this article should be seen as no more than an attempt to reconstruct what happened, based on a mere handful of sources, I still hope it’s an engaging account that doesn’t draw on too many ‘when punk brough freedom behind the Iron Curtain’ cliches… 

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