The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


Requiem for Alexei Navalny


This was written shortly after the death of Navalny (a leading Russian dissident) in a Russian prison in February, but I just heard it yesterday. The words were written by Leonid Kaganov, and the performer is the prominent Russian musician Vasia Oblomov (the stage name of Vasiliy Goncharov), who now lives in the U.S.

Here's my attempt at translation:

Now, far from here there lies an empty grave.
We waited for a miracle; well, this was it.
It spoke to us, gave us faith as a gift
By deeds and words, irony and example.

For us was performed again the Biblical evil drama,
Where they heal with a word and chase the frauds from the temple,
Where to be loved by millions, they submit to the prejudged indictments,
Surrender to the Sanhedrin, to be crucified on Friday—

For their not tolerating falsehood, for their passion for the cause,
And who can be surprised that the earthly body has vanished?
But the spirit will be resurrected on the screens and arises as a living icon,
And the tyrants will tremble under the thick concrete prison beds,

And the spirit will dissolve in the word, in the land of endless nonsense,
In the land of executioners and blood, in the culture of killers and prisons,
Where the thaw turns into autumn, where jokes are heard ever more rarely,
Where they do not pronounce the truth, but also for some reason slaughter it,

Where the devil marches naked and it's hard not to see him,
Where the neighborhoods and the schools teach how to shut up and hate,
Where people, simple people, confused by everyday quarrels,
Don't know what will happen, and believe the sewers.

And those, who saw the miracle, close their kitchen doors,
Stick needles in voodoo dolls, read the psalms and believe
That the stone in the heart of the killer, the cowardly, cold creature
Will one day stop beating and will give the world peace,

And in the sky the blood clots will burst in the crimson Kremlin towers,
And the bombs will become quiet in our neighbors' fields,
And then the ballets will die down, the sons-of-bitches will run,
And the air will smell of Summer, and we can leave the chat.

And like heat and water, antennas and gas and light
To our homes they will pipe freedom, because you had spoken of this.
And the time will arrive, will judge, will rip the clothes from the executioners,
And this will be done with people, to whom you gave hope.

The words were reportedly written on February 19, three days after Navalny's death, and at the time, his body had not yet been handed over to his mother; I infer that "the earthly body has vanished" and "empty grave" refer to this. The blood clot likely refers to what was claimed to be Navalny's cause of death. The ballets may refer to Swan Lake emerging as a symbol of protest against the Russian government and perhaps even of hope for leaders' deaths. (Thanks to Yurkin0v, a translator on LyricsTranslate, whose translation and annotations I found helpful in producing this.) My apologies if I have missed some other allusions.

UPDATE: I should note that, according to a March 4 story, the YouTube video was blocked in Russia.