The Volokh Conspiracy

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Ukraine War Music

From One View of Soldiering to Another

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Sergey Babkin is cofounder of 5'Nizza (apparently pronounced as the word "Friday"), a band that has been prominent in Russia and Ukraine, and around 2009 he put out a Russian-language song called "I'm a Soldier," which I think can fairly be described as focusing on the misery and pointlessness of soldiering. The YouTube version has more than 8 million views.

Then a few weeks ago, he put out a very different Russian-language language version, now up to 5 million views. (I briefly noted here why it makes sense that many pro-Ukraine songs might well be in Russian.) Have a look or listen at both:

[1.] The 2009 version:

Here's a translation, free-riding largely on this page (thanks, unknown katya) but with some modifications:

I'm a soldier
I haven't slept in five years
And I have dark circles under my eyes
Haven't seen them myself
But so I've been told

I'm a soldier
And I have no head (*)
They have beaten it off with their boots
Yo-o-o, the commander shouts
The commander's mouth is torn open
Because a grenade …
White cotton wool,
Red cotton wool won't heal a soldier

I'm a soldier
Prematurely born child of war
I'm a soldier
Mom, heal my wounds
I'm a soldier
Soldier of a godforsaken country
I'm a hero
Tell me of which novel

I'm a soldier
I'm offended me when I have only one bullet left
It's either me or him
The last wagon
Moonshine
There are millions of us
In the UN

I'm a soldier
And I know my job
My job is to shoot
So that the bullet doesn't miss
The enemy's body
This song is for you, Mother War
Are you happy now?

(*) Having no head is a Russian expression meaning someone that's irresponsible.

[2.] Here's the revised version from a week ago:

And a translation, again free-riding off an online copy (thanks, JVjr), with some modifications:

I'm a soldier, haven't slept for a long time,
But I'm nourished with manly strength
By my native land under my feet.

I'm a soldier, those who came to us with a hole-filled head,
I'll break it off with my boots.
Ow-ow-ow, let the enemy yell with a torn mouth,
They will be dust
We're tearing them without fear.

(Ukrainian:) Better than all medicinal drops
(back to Russian:) Russian warship, go fuck yourself.

I'm a soldier, and trust me, I didn't want war,
But it is filling all the broadcasts.
I'm a soldier, soldier of my beloved country,
I'm a hero of a free and new world.
I'm a soldier, and I see rockets, flying into a peaceful house,
That is hell and Sodom.
I'm very angry and strong, there are a million of us like that,
Get out, Babylon!

I'm a soldier, and I know my job,
My job is to stand
so that land is littered with corpses of the enemy
This ragga is for you, Mother-Ukraine,
(Ukrainian:) You will be free, dearest.

I'm a soldier, and trust me, I didn't want war,
I'm a soldier, but to hell with lacerated wounds,
I'm a soldier of a free and great country,
I'm a hero, they will soon write novels about me.

Do the two versions reflect a change of attitude towards soldiering? The distinction, even if not expressly stated in the first version, between unrighteous soldiering from righteous? Or do they simply aim to convey two realities about soldiering, both real and both worth expressing? (A song isn't an academic article; it generally isn't supposed to deal with counterarguments.) Let me know, please, what you think.