Jun 01

Russians (2022)

Russian children

Russian Children (they look like our children, don’t they?)

‘I Hope the Russians Love Their Children Too’

On this day (June 1) 42 years ago, Sting released this song on his first solo album. Sting wrote the lyrics to this 1985 song but borrowed the central theme from the second movement (‘Romance’) of Serge Prokofiev’s “Lieutenant Kijé Suite,” which begins at the 4:20 mark of this orchestral recording. Sting reharmonized Prokofiev’s theme by adding a short but profoundly unique bass line (in addition to creating a powerful original but thematically similar melody.) Prokofiev himself is said to have taken the theme from an old Russian folk song called “The Little Grey Dove is Cooing.”  [In playing this song, I’ve further discovered another possible source. Try singing the Christmas carol ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ (originating in the 1650s) over Sting’s lyrics.]

With the current invasion of Ukraine, Prokofiev’s song is especially remarkable. In one of life’s extraordinary coincidences, Prokofiev was born in Sontsivka in 1891, in the Donetsk Oblast (region or state) of Ukraine – the very center of the area in eastern Ukraine that Putin is claiming to protect and liberate in 2022! It’s just 50 miles north of Mariupol, where the greatest horrors are taking place. Sting’s song was released in 1985, having no idea that his reflection on the absurdity of nuclear war based on Prokofiev’s theme would have such resonance and urgency 37 years later!

I’ve included the lyrics below (with some explanations of some of Sting’s references) and have contributed a new third verse for 2022. And believe me, when I say to you, I hope the Russians love their children too!

Dr. Weiss

Dedicated to my grandparents and my wife’s grandparents, all of whom were from ‘the old country.”

Russians lyrics

Verse 1
In Europe and America
There’s a growing feeling of hysteria
Conditioned to respond to all the threats
In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets 1

Mister Krushchev said, “We will bury you” 2
I don’t subscribe to this point of view
It’d be such an ignorant thing to do
If the Russians love their children too

Verse 2
How can I save my little boy
From Oppenheimer’s deadly toy? 3
There is no monopoly on common sense
On either side of the political fence

We share the same biology, regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too


[original Verse 3 removed – see below]
There is no historical precedent
To put the words in the mouth of the president?
There’s no such thing as a winnable war
It’s a lie we don’t believe anymore

Mister Reagan says, “We will protect you” 4
I don’t subscribe to this point of view
But what might save us, me and you
Is if the Russians love their children too]

New verse 3
Mr. Putin says we will protect you 5
A pretext we all know’s not true
Invading a country and killing scores
Is an action that the world deplores

We share the same biology, regardless of ideology
It’s been said before, but it still is true
I hope the Russians love their children too

Some insight into Sting’s lyrics

1       The Soviet Union was a socialist and communist state that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a union of fifteen national republics, but in practice, its government and economy was a one-party state (before 1990) governed by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, with Moscow as its capital within its most significant and most populous republic, Russia.

2       ‘We will bury you.’ While addressing the Western Bloc at the embassy on November 18, 1956, Russian First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev said: “About the capitalist states, …. Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you!” The speech prompted the envoys from twelve NATO nations and Israel to leave the room.

Many Americans, meanwhile, interpreted Khrushchev’s quote as a nuclear threat. As evidenced by recent veiled threats and tension between Russia and NATO, history seems to be repeating itself.

3       ‘Oppenheimer’s deadly toy’   Robert Oppenheimer was an American theoretical physicist who was a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Oppenheimer was the wartime head of the Los Alamos Laboratory and is among those who are credited with being the “father of the atomic bomb” for their role in the Manhattan Project – the World War II undertaking that developed the first nuclear weapons. He later lobbied to avert nuclear war and opposed the development of the even more powerful hydrogen bomb.

4       Mr. Reagan says, ‘we will protect you’  Sting recently recorded an acoustic version of this song with the proceeds going to aid Ukraine. Interestingly, he omitted the verse concerning ‘Mr. Reagan’ this time around, possibly to avoid the appearance of moral equivalence and also avoid partisan rancor. I agree with Sting’s decision. Although billions were wasted on a hopeless and unrealistic project, I believe that Reagan’s plan was clearly defensive in nature and certainly not overtly threatening. It was certainly not comparable to a brutal invasion of a neighboring country. For this reason, I’ve suggested a new third verse.

President Reagan said on March 23, 1983: “I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.”  The same speech announced the creation of the Strategic Defense Initiative, which quickly became known as Star Wars, which would intercept incoming missiles. The projected costs ran into the hundreds of billions of dollars, and it could have never protected the US against the 40,000 nuclear warheads the Russians possessed in 1986.

5       ‘Mr. Putin says he will protect you’   Putin’s pretext for the invasion was to “demilitarize and de-Nazify Ukraine” and ‘protect Russians being mistreated by Ukraine. Putin accused Ukraine of committing genocide and called its government a Nazi regime, claims with absolutely no evidence. He then recognized Donetsk (Prokofiev’s birthplace) and Luhansk, two separatist regions in the Donbas, as independent states and ordered Russian troops in for a “peacekeeping” operation.  This is like the strategy that Hitler used when he ordered Austrian Nazis to create as much trouble and destruction as possible in Austria and then claim that Austrian law had broken down as an excuse to order German troops into Vienna.

Some info from Wikipedia

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