The Volokh Conspiracy

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Russian Song About the Wreck of the Kursk


I had only dimly recalled the 2000 wreck of the Russian submarine Kursk, but I just came across a song about it that I very much liked, and that I wanted to share with our handful of Russophone readers. Here is something of the backstory, which one needs to know to understand the song (Chicago Tribune [Colin McMahon]):

Dmitry Kolesnikov's body was the first to be positively identified from the wreck on the bottom of the Barents Sea … [among] the 118 crewmen who died after a pair of explosions devastated the submarine Aug. 12.

In a pocket of Kolesnikov's uniform, divers also found a letter that the 27-year-old lieutenant captain wrote just before he died. For proud Russians, for Kolesnikov's wife and family, the letter is a testament to loyalty and sense of duty.

Kolesnikov scribbled words of love to his bride of only four months. And in a more practiced, more disciplined hand, he recorded what he could of the events that led him and 22 other men to scramble to the Kursk's last compartment and wait for a rescue that never came….

Kolesnikov's documentation of survivors—according to his notes, the men lived for at least several hours—disproved the recent government versions that all 118 aboard died within minutes.

It also revived some of the anger against the government for its slow and confused response to the accident.

Here's the song, from the Russian band DDT and its lead singer-songwriter, Yuri Shevchuk; you can read the Russian lyrics here, and an attempt at a somewhat rhyming and metered translation here. The song opens with the line,

Who about death will tell us a couple of honest words?

The music may at first seem like something of a mismatch with the theme, but I found that it worked for me.