It’s been a year since the Russian Federation annexed Crimea. The controversial move, which caused as much anger as paralysis in the West, confirmed Vladimir Putin in his role of strongman of the East. This was a move that the Russian president prefers calling a "restitution" rather than an "annexation" — a mere question of semantics, really.
As for just about every news event nowadays, people reacted in music.
Songs about Putin have been around for a while now and even as early as 2002, a two-woman electro-dance band topped the Russian charts by singing how they wanted "a expand=1] man like Putin."
But with the escalation of the Ukrainian conflict, YouTube just about exploded with anti- and pro- songs about the ex-KGB agent who gladly poses shirtless riding a horse, hunting, driving a Formula 1 car, playing ice hockey, swimming in a freezing Siberian river, or going for a ride with his mates from the Russian "Night Wolves" biker group (under the nickname "Abaddon," which in Hebrew means "The Destroyer"). Or were those cameras just there by accident?
What isn’t an accident is the time and effort put in by people all over the world to put their thoughts about the Russian president in music. Here is Worldcrunch’s selection of the 10 best songs about Putin:
"The song is primarily concerned with the phenomenon that even in industrialized countries, a large part of the population is longing for a strong leadership …. The reason for this could be seen in that many governments and leaders have used democracy abusively and therefore changed it in such a way that people are gutted about and tired of democracy. This is what we rise up against as it scares us! We see democracy at threat!" German band Rammelhof explained after receiving abuse for their video about Putin. We also strongly recommend reading the lyrics under expand=1] the video.
"Go Hard Like Vladimir Putin"
Cleveland rapper AMG has been no stranger to sexually explicit lyrics since his debut album, Bitch Betta Have My Money, was released in 1991. So why would he hesitate to praise the Russian president in his "Go Hard Like Vladimir Putin" released in 2014?
"Putin Can Do Anything"
It may be because it was uploaded by an account called "Vladimir Putin" with more than 5k followers, but we think this one might be pro-Putin. Or maybe because it depicts him as a mountain climber, an astronaut, a surgeon, a sailor, a pianist, playing the trumpet while drumming, breakdancing, putting out forest fires, scoring goals for the Russian soccer team and single-handedly stopping a man (who looks a lot like Petro Poroshenko) from cooking by cutting Ukraine’s gas supplies.
"Happy Birthday, President of Russia!"
"His life is like 100 milestones, crucial for our country," this young choir sang for Vladimir Putin’s 62nd birthday on Oct. 7. Like the children in the video, he also comes from Saint Petersburg. Other lyrics include, "He is the only one for us, everything will come through, all hopes will come true, let for many more years like before, strength will prevail in a kind heart, happy birthday, the president of Russia!"
"Putin is number one greatest president"
We chose this one not just for the quality of the video and the lyrics, but also for the debate it stirred in the comments section. "Isn't USA that country that kills millions of people in Asia for democracy?", "Brainwashed idiots, you have no idea how much this guy done for world peace and stability," or "Is he really gay?" are just a few amongst the 3,893.
The "Putin Khuilo" song became popular when supporters of the eastern Ukrainian soccer club Metalist Kharkiv, as well as rivals of Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv, started chanting the slogan — which means "Putin, go f*ck yourself," in 2014. The chant continued to grow in popularity outside the stadiums and into the streets, and quickly became an anti-Putin song.
"Lyoha, you are separatist!"
The chant also has a punk version made by a Ukrainian band whose name translates to "Honey Pauline." They criticize the separatist pro-Russians in the east of the country, accusing them of being controlled by the Kremlin.
"The Vladimir Putin Song"
Despite very convincing Russian accents, the Queens of Pop — the duo performing this "Vladimir Putin Song" — are actually two brothers from Manchester, England. The track, released in February 2014, criticizes Putin and the Kremlin’s stance on homosexuality in Russia. As one comment puts it, "would it be against the rules if this went to Eurovision?"
Rasputin vs. Stalin
Ok, this is not directly about Putin, but his grand entrance at 2:08 and flawless delivery led us to think it deserved a spot here.
"Putin Depardieu Love Story"
This might be the best adaptation yet to Electric Six’s "Gay Bar" from 2003. The creepiness, as well as the quality of the animation, just make it perfect.
A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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