An Internet hit is becoming the anthem for Russian protesters as they march against Vladimir Putin’s rule.
In the few days since it was posted, more than 1 million people have watched the YouTube video for the song, catapulting its band into sudden stardom. Yet this is no ordinary story of the latest Web sensation.
The musicians in the video aren’t rock stars; they’re elite veterans of the Russian army.
The former paratroopers performed the song for the first time at Saturday’s protest rally, The Associated Press reports, but by then, many in the thousands-strong crowd already knew the words.
The song is called “Putin and the Paratroopers,” says The New York Times, which adds:
The song portrays Mr. Putin as nothing more than a corrupt bureaucrat who has “destroyed the armed forces” along the way. It pits the prime minister — who claimed in December that he thought the white ribbon, the symbol for the protest movement, was a condom — against the common man.
There aren’t many English translations of the lyrics, but The New York Times says they go something like this:
You’re no different from me.
A man and not God.
I’m no different from you.
A man, not some hick.
We won’t let you keep lying, we won’t let you keep stealing
We’re liberated troops who defended the motherland
Ribbons of freedom are positive for all, but for you…
there nothing – just condoms
There’s a more complete — but unverified – translation attempted on a blog called Tamerlane’s Thoughts. If any Russian speakers out there would like to confirm it, please give a shout-out in the comments field.
What makes this so interesting, as the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle points out, is that paratroopers “have belonged to the elite of the Russian army since the Soviet-era and they are highly-regarded by society.”
Until now, people believed the army would always stand by Putin because he has made it a central plank of his program to back the army in turn.
At least, that is the way it has always seemed.
The author of the song, 45-year-old former paratrooper Mikhail Vistitsky, says he was inspired to write the lyrics after attending one of the anti-Putin demonstrations in December. He dismisses critics who say the song betrays the honor of the Russian military.
“It’s not offensive at all, because we’re used to seeing dishonest people in power do nasty and mean things,” he told the AP.
The song is one of the latest in the soundtrack that’s emerging from the Russian protest movement, which NPR Music has been keeping their ear on.