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Jinjer depict the occupation of Ukraine in the song "Home Back." | Foto: Sven Mandel
Jinjer depict the occupation of Ukraine in the song "Home Back." | Foto: Sven Mandel
Jan Hamerský -

6 Russian and Ukrainian Anti-War Songs

The virus seems to have left last week. It has been replaced by the Russian Vladimir Putin, who started a war between Ukraine on one side and the Russian Federation and Belarus on the other. It's hard to know what can be done about it. However, it certainly makes sense to remind ourselves of the essentials—music brings people together. That's why I chose three popular anti-war songs each for Russia and Ukraine. I've ordered them from the oldest to the youngest.

1. Maciej Kamieński—Hey, sokoly! (1778)

The oldest song on the list begins with the words: "Hey, somewhere from above black waters / a young Cossack mounts his horse. / Sadly he parts with his girl / but even more sadly with Ukraine." It dates back to the 18th century and alludes to the tragic uprising of Bohdan Chmelnicky (1648-1654) against the Polish aristocracy. It was composed by Maciej Kamieński (1734-1821), a native of Pustá Úľana, Slovakia, for the first Polish opera called Happiness in Misfortune (Nędza uszczęśliwiona). The song became popular during the Polish-Soviet War (1920). Since then, it has been claimed by Poles, Russians and Ukrainians alike.

2. Bulat Okudzhava—Farewell to Poland (1966)

"Our worn-out suits fit us well / and our sisters weep like Yaroslavnas in their wake / when, to the cry of harmonicas, / we leave / to fight for freedom at the age of seventeen." "Proshchanie s Polshei" or "Farewell to Poland" is a song by Bulat Okudzhava (1924-1997), a Russian poet originally from the Caucasus and a great admirer of Polish culture. The theme of the song revolves around the false hopes of each generation that set out to fight for freedom.

3. Vladimir Visotsky—He Did Not Return From Battle (1969)

This song by Vladimir Visotsky (1938-1980) definitely deserves a place of honour among the most beautiful anti-war songs. The lyrics are laconic and moving: "Why is everything wrong? / It all feels just the same. / The same sky-blue again, / the same air, same forest, same water. / Only he did not return from the battle! "

4. Jinjer—Home Back (2019)

We cannot forget Jinjer, the most popular Ukrainian band of today, led by the charismatic and versatile singer Tatya Shmayluk. The "phoney war" that took place in Crimea and eastern Ukraine from 2014 until last week, and its media coverage, is the subject of the track "Home Back."

5. IC3PEAK—Marsh (2020)

The war in Ukraine has revived interest in game theory, which examines decision-making in particularly tense situations. IC3PEAK, Moscow-based Anastasia Kreslina and Nikolay Kostilev, vehemently claim the legacy of Slovenia's Laibach and explore how obedient serfs are raised through children's games, rhymes and songs. The Kremlin's censorship did not wait long. The art project quickly rose to the level of Pussy Riot on the government's index.

6. 1914Blind—Leading the Blind (2021)

YouTube channel Black Metal Promotion popularised Eastern European black metal, unfortunately including a lot of bands supporting the far right, such as Drudkh. (Perhaps) one of the few exceptions are Ukraine's 1914, who don't romanticise war in any way.

What song would you add to the list? I look forward to your comments and wish everyone, regardless of nationality or religion, a firm hope!

Tagy top 10 war in Ukraine Ukraine Jinjer

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Jan Hamerský
Born in 1988. When he was fifteen and deciding what to do next, writing was the obvious choice. At nineteen, he changed his mind. It seemed to him that it is history that writes stories. Then he found out that history is written by winners—he joined the losers. He majored in h…