Ironically, I think of Russian songs about soldiering and soldiers because of the courage and tragedy of the Ukrainians. It’s hard to think of great American songs on this topic (I am not talking here about anti-war music, as powerful as it might be) and I don’t even know Ukrainian. Some Russians are great at producing them, maybe because World War II had a greater impact on Russia than America.
However, I also expect many patriotic Ukrainians to be in the same boat. I remember Bulat Okudzhava singing Russian songs far more than any Ukrainian war songs. The fact—even though Putin has asserted it, it’s still a fact—is that Ukrainians and Russians are indeed in many ways one people with a history that is shared much more than divided. Okudzhava was singing as much about Ukrainian soldiers (though many fought with the Nazis) as he was about Russians. Okudzhava was Georgian and fought in that war.
We have a few Russian songs to offer our readers.
[1.]Bulat Okudzhava’s Farewell to Poland:
[2.]Yuri Vizbor’s “Vaniusha from Tiumen” (though you can translate it to “Johnny from the Hicks”) is performed to the exact same song as Okudzhava’s, but the lyrics are quite different.
[3.]Yuri Shevchuk’s “Patsany,” or possibly “The Boys,” is a song inspired by Chechen War. It contains the line, “Here’ I see what could happen / To Moscow Ukraine and the Urals” (Shevchuk actually spoke out a few days back against the invasion in Ukraine).
Okudzhava has many others, such as this one; Vysotskiy also has many. But I couldn’t get in to his work as much as Okudzhava did. I can only imagine that there’s many more Russians who know more than I do. If you would like to share your recommendations, do so.
These are the thoughts that I was thinking of, but I wanted to mention them, partially because they’re just what I have in my head, and partly as an act of solidarity towards relations between Russians, Ukrainians, as they ought to be.