The song in Russia’s heart

Putin’s government is using the media it controls, which is to say the Russian media, to whip up the kind of jingoistic, militarist psychosis neither I nor my Russian friends ever saw even in Brezhnev’s Russia.

One sees nothing but war films on TV, interspersed with documentaries extolling Stalin’s leadership and managerial skills.

Musical programmes are solely dedicated to the kind of songs that make Horst-Wessel-Lied sound like a lyrical ballad.

Talk shows are wholly given to Russia’s martial glory and vile attacks on Ukrainians, which in any civilised country would get their purveyors arrested for inciting radial hatred: the Ukies are all fascists, thieves, Banderites (followers of the nationalist leader Stepan Bandera murdered by the KGB in Munich in 1959), grave desecraters and so forth.

The country stands up and salutes: this sort of thing caters to her historical sense of inferiority vis-à-vis the West. As any psychologist will tell you, such feelings are readily transferred into xenophobia, aggression and self-glorification.

Hence Putin’s popularity: the KGB colonel can’t provide bread for his countrymen, a third of whom live below the poverty line (and it’s drawn much lower than in the West). But he’s adept at serving the circus of ‘Russia getting up from her knees’ – meaning making the world scared of her again.

This the Russians tend to equate with respect: the world sees them as a threat, rather than a sideshow. What else can a nation possibly wish for? Considering that leading a normal, free, prosperous life isn’t an option for 95 percent of the population? So beat the drum and blow the bugle – we’re on the march!

True enough, neither my friends nor I ever witnessed this sort of thing delivered at the same fervour pitch back in the USSR. But our fathers did – in the ‘30s when the whole country was being turned into a huge military-labour camp in preparation for Stalin’s war of conquest.

Then too every film, every newspaper article, every song reeked of cordite, then too the nation was being primed to march, murder and maraud. Hitler’s counterpunch that cost Russia 26 million lives prevented Stalin’s juggernaut from rolling beyond the eastern half of Europe – who’s going to do our fighting for us next time?

Anyway it’s better to show than to tell. So, by way of illustration, here’s a song performed on Russian TV by Zhanna Bichevskaya, commonly described as the Russian Joan Baez (minus the musical ability, as I’m sure you’ll agree).

The Russophones among you can enjoy not only the amateurish music but also the rousing lyrics in the original:

The rest have to make do with my translation, and I’m only rendering the words, not the metre and rhyme. The cultural references that may go past those who didn’t attend a Soviet elementary school are to Mamai, the Tartar military leader of the Blue Horde, Kulikovo Field in which the Russians defeated Mamai in 1380, and the Khazars who fought against the Russians in the ninth and tenth centuries:

1. The banners are moving in the morning mist// The firmament will soon tremble in battle// The field of Russian Glory, the field of Russian Battle,// The field of Russian life vanquishing death…

2. How have we allowed this, brothers?// Russia’s moaning under the yoke of black locusts// This means the Russians again must go to arms// This means the Russians will again have to brandish their swords…

3. The anti-world is fanning new fires,// It’s again conquering the glorious city of Muscovy,// New Europes, new Khazars,// New Mamais are threatening the Motherland…

4. Russia will be strong and free!// Russian strength will make Satan shudder!// And leading the troops will be our legitimate Tsar!// The whole country will be turned into a Kulikovo Field!

5. A powerful pleading voice sounds// The glorious Russian voice will thunder over the world// Holy Russia will come out again under the Saviour’s banner// Kulikovo Field lies ahead for us!

6. We’ll catch up with the enemy following his own footsteps// And rip him to shreds for the glory of God,// Kulikovo Field – Russian victory// Kulikovo Field – Russian land!

7. We’ll return Russian Sebastopol to Russia,// The Crimean Peninsula will again become Russian,// Ours are the majestic Bosphorus, ours is Constantinople// And the world’s relic Jerusalem!

8. And to spite the Masons and other villains// And those seething with hatred to Christians,// We’ll recall Kulikovo Field and the scales will fall off our eyes// And this holy relic will unite us all!

The friend who has sent me this clip limited himself to a brief comment: “Right. It’s clear. Turks and Israelis, brace yourselves. Seems like it’s your turn after the Crimea.”

But I relish my role of self-appointed translator too much to let it go at that, and I do understand Fascist perfectly. So here it comes:

‘Black locusts’ and ‘Satan’ refer to anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the sentiment of this rant. In particular, Europe embodies this evil, which is why it’s metaphorically equated to Mamai and the Khazars.

‘Legitimate tsar’ is a clear reference to Putin. In the actual Kulikovo battle the Russians were led not by a tsar, but by Grand Duke Dmitry Donskoy, the Prince of Vladimir. No Russian tsar existed at the time because Russia hadn’t yet united into a single country.

 ‘The whole country will be turned into a Kulikovo Field’ and ‘Kulikovo Field lies ahead of us’ hold a lovely promise both for Russians and the rest of us, as do the words ‘The glorious Russian voice will thunder over the world’.

I’ll let you guess who the enemy is that will be ‘caught up with’ and ‘ripped to shreds’. There are many likely candidates, including us.

‘We’ll return Russian Sebastopol to Russia, the Crimean Peninsula will again become Russian’ is accurate reportage, while ‘the majestic Bosphorus, Constantinople and the world’s relic Jersualem’ are a statement of geopolitical intent.

As to who ‘the other villains’ are, those mentioned in conjunction with the Masons, you can draw your own conclusions. It’s not difficult.

Allow me to reemphasise that this isn’t an underground tape of a crazy old woman spewing chauvinistic hatred, but a hugely popular Russian idol performing on one of the best-viewed TV shows. Moreover, this sort of thing isn’t just typical but dominant in all Russian media.

Can you read the signs? If not, I’ll be happy to translate. 




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