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‘We’ll win without her songs’ How Russians (and one Ukrainian) reacted to pop legend Alla Pugacheva’s anti-war statement

Source: Meduza
Sergey Karpov / TASS

On September 16, Russia’s Justice Ministry added comedian and TV host Maxim Galkin to its “foreign agents” registry, claiming he was engaged in political activity using money from Ukraine. Galkin denied the accusation, saying, “I don’t trade conscience.” Two days later, his wife, pop megastar Alla Pugacheva, asked to be declared a “foreign agent” herself — likely the first time a high-profile figure has publicly requested the designation, which brings with it a range of administrative headaches. In the request, Pugacheva called her husband an “honest, decent, and sincere person, [and] a genuine and incorruptible patriot of Russia” who wants Russians to have “peaceful lives and free speech” and for people to stop dying “for illusory goals.” The statement received over half a million likes on Instagram and was quoted by virtually every Russian media outlet — though the Kremlin-controlled ones refrained from mentioning her allusion to the war. Meduza is publishing translations of some of the most notable public reactions to Pugacheva’s statement.

Dmitry Peskov

Russian presidential press secretary

I’m not going to comment on that topic at all. I don’t think it’s an issue that has anything to do with the Kremlin.

Oleksiy Arestovych

Ukrainian presidential advisor

Pugacheva — that’s the USSR against Russia. That’s part of the self-identity of the people supporting the war’s main goals as asserted by Putin, the restoration of the USSR. In other words, it’s Russians over 40.

Pugacheva was the center of gravity of a very gray country called “the late USSR”: a “self-made” person, archetypal, illuminated by all of the rays and all of the attention of people who wanted to “be someone” but failed.

The rebellion of someone as well-known as Alla [Pugacheva] against the Putin system means:

  • The undermining of the legitimacy of the leading mythology of the Putin regime
  • The undermining of the main narrative justifying this war
  • An explosion in the center of the self-conception of the citizens who make up the base of the Putin regime’s legitimation
  • The beginning of the end of this regime
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more on 'foreign agents'

Russia’s next ‘foreign agents’ law Under new legislation, you won’t have to receive foreign money to be declared a ‘foreign agent’

Valery Fadeyev

Head of Russia's Presidential Human Rights Council

The difficulties that come with conducting the special operation, difficulties that nobody is immune to, have pushed some members of the creative sector and armchair strategists to express doubts about the necessity of Russia’s operations in the Donbas and in Ukraine. Some have started talking about the supposedly made-up goals our country is pursuing, while others are calling for an end to military activity. They think that by doing this, they’re demonstrating their integrity and civic courage; they believe that they’re proceeding from the simple and clear principles of humanism. But this is a case in which simplicity is worse than theft, as the saying goes. The enemy is using this to promote the idea that Russian citizens don’t support the SVO [special military operation] or their own army.

Lev Shlosberg

Opposition politician

The diversity of the reactions to Alla Pugacheva’s statement from various members of society reflects people's growing fatigue with the government’s policy and the complete uncertainty of the future. [...]

For a rational government, this would serve as a signal to reevaluate and reconsider its actions, but there’s no reason to expect that from Russia right now: the system isn’t oriented around adjusting its policies to meet society’s demands.

Nonetheless, the interesting thing about the situation surrounding Pugacheva’s statement is that it was doubtless heard both by the elite and by wider society. The reactions of sympathy and direct support show what direction the tide of public opinion is turning.

Vladimir Vinokur

Comedian and TV host

That’s simply solidarity with the person she lives with. It’s her husband. There’s no other statement here.

Pyotr Tolstoy

State Duma Deputy Chairman

It’s unfortunate that Pugacheva, formerly the country’s most popular singer, has so lost touch with reality that she stands in solidarity with people who want Russia to be defeated. She now belongs in a historical museum dedicated to the USSR.

Probably the saddest thing that can happen to an artist is to stop identifying with her country and her people and fall from the history of her homeland. And unlike Galkin, she doesn’t have another country to go to. She’s not going to become a foreign agent, and she’s not going to find any support among decent Russian people. We’ll win without her songs.

Veronika Belotserkovskaya

Ukrainian-born Russian blogger living in France, charged with spreading “disinformation” about the Russian army in March

I fully understand the outrage over her failure to mention Ukraine or the war, also well as the phrase that triggered everyone, “our boys.” The emotional part of me agrees completely. But let’s take it from a different perspective. Let’s imagine our task is to deliver a very clear message to a certain audience.

No mention of orcs (Editor's note: a term used by some Ukrainians to refer to invading Russian soldiers), ghouls, or slaves is going to work. Insulting the audience, even indirectly, is definitely not going to work. No mention of this incompetent, bloody war is going to work. This is their war. Whatever kind of war it is. It would only go right past them and immediately provoke a new onslaught of patriotic gibberish. In this text, she's speak as a Russian — full stop. She’s rooting for “our boys.” And by the way, that’s exactly the kind of thing every single opposition figure I know is spewing. That’s the tone that conveys that she’s “one of them.”

Secondly, and more importantly: this statement isn’t written for Ukrainians. The message is for the authorities! It’s a public slap in the face — and a resounding one. It was heard by everyone. She’s speaking their language, destroying their narrative.

Vladimir Solovyov

Russian state TV host

Alla Pugacheva dramatically stood up for Maxim Galkin, who’s been named a foreign agent, trashed Russia’s name, and collected money for Ukraine.

The way she imagines it, everyone is supposed to burst into tears, admire her courage, and forgive Maxim immediately. I sincerely hope that won’t happen.

Old age doesn’t always mean wisdom. Sometimes it just means old age.

Dmitry Gudkov

Opposition politician

Who is Putin? A minor political figure from the age of Alla Pugacheva.

Maxim Mironov

Economist, professor of finance at Madrid’s IE Business School

The first time I heard about Pugachev's Rebellion when I was a child, I wondered what would have to happen for Alla [Pugacheva] to rebel. All these years later, I finally have an answer.

Ksenia Sobchak

Journalist, socialite, and TV host