The Volokh Conspiracy

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Ukraine War Music

"Happy New Year, My Son"


A song released Dec. 20 by the anti-war Russian singer Maksim Pokrovsky (who now lives in the U.S.); the two actors are prominent Russian actors who have also fled Russia after signing a statement opposing the war. The video struck me as much more effective, because it is much subtler, than the video of his "Ukraine," and the lyrics are also subtler than some of his earlier, more directly satirical (though often very funny) work.

The music may at first come across as emotionally out of step with the topic—the death of a young Russian soldier in the war—but I expect that was a deliberate choice, and I think a very effective one. More broadly, in the words of the group itself, "yes, it doesn't sound particularly elevated, but that's very important."

You can read a translation of the lyrics by clicking the "Show more" link here, but there are also English subtitles in the video itself. The video has 2.5M YouTube views over the last month, so I think it struck a chord.

Here's Pokrovsky's explanation of the song, though, as he notes, it doesn't need much explanation:

This year [2022] we released many anti-war songs. Almost all were addressed to Russian citizens. The one exception was "Ukraine"—and that was only a partial exception, because Ukrainian blood flows through many Russians, because many of them have close relatives in Ukraine. The song "Happy New Year, My Son!" is entirely meant to appeal to the feelings of Russians. As in many of the songs [from our group, "Nogu Svelo!"] it includes sarcasm, but it has a far from central role.

I hate questions about what message I'm trying to send with one of my songs, but here all is clear: "See what awaits you." And this future can't give people joy, bring smiles or laughter, because this future is an immense tragedy for everyone on both sides of this awful war. It's just that not everyone has yet realized this, but death instead of Grandfather Frost [the Russian Santa Claus] is already knocking on every home's door.

Pokrovsky also adds a twist that I missed (because I didn't know about this particular New Year's Eve midnight tradition), about the father's turning on the television set at the end of the clip:

… The parents, driven insane by grief, are preparing to greet the new year, the first new year without their son. But still they don't forget to turn on the TV set at midnight, to see Putin's speech.