IOSIF KOBZON: LIFE AFTER LIFE

 
Mid 80s, 1st May Parade, Kharkiv. Columns of students of the Kharkiv Aviation Institute march on the Dzerzhinski square. Before them the column of the Malyshev machine-building plant, behind them the auto-mobile-building college. Yet in the centre of the square the First Secretary of the Regional Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine and other communist leaders tolkaiut rechi (giving speeches): “Long live Soviet Union!” and the masses reply: “Hurrah!” “Long live Communist Party!” and the masses – “Hurrah!” Someone from the group of Aviation Institute students shouts “Klaudia Shulzhenko!” and students reply – “NO!”; the voice: “Lev Leshchenko!” and the student shout – “NO!” and “Iosif Kobzon!” the students – “NO!” and “Andrey Makarevich!”* and students “YES, YES, YES!” Voices of students merged with voices of the crowd and nobody seems to have noticed their irony.
 
Mid 90s, lecture-hall of the Lviv State University. Students of the history department drawing the black list of Soviet singers on back row desks, trying by this to cut off from the Soviet past. On that list among others are Lev Leshchenko and Iosif Kobzon, who were instruments of Soviet propaganda. Their repertoire consisted of songs about the Soviet army, Soviet fatherland and cosmonauts. Students from the 90s in L’viv similarly to students from the 80s in Kharkiv believed that these singers who were symbols of the dead Soviet regime are unwanted for their generation will disappear in nearest future.
 
Present day Russia. A concert dedicated to the Victory Day (9 of May), Moscow. Among military, children and folk choruses, one-day stars, boys and girls bands – the key figure is Iosif Kobzon. He sings how courageous Soviet soldiers liberated Europe from the Nazis and about today’s powerful and unconquerable Russia. Here is the song:
 
«Я люблю тебя, Россия» 
(I love You, Russia) 
 
Я люблю тебя, Россия,

Дорогая наша Русь.

Нерастраченная сила,

Неразгаданная грусть.

Ты размахом необъятна,

Нет ни в чём тебе конца.

Ты веками непонятна

Чужеземным мудрецам.
(I love You, Russia,
Our dear Rus’,
Unspent power,
Undiscovered melancholy,
Unbounded scale,
You have end in nothing.
For ages You are incomprehensible,
To foreign wise men.)
 
Много раз тебя пытали,

Быть России иль не быть,

Много раз в тебе пытались

Душу русскую убить,

Но нельзя тебя, я знаю,

Ни сломить, ни запугать.

Ты мне – Родина родная,

Вольной волей дорога.
(Many times You were tortured,
To be Russia or not to be,
Many times they tried 
To kill in You your Russian soul,
But I know, it is impossible,
Neither break, nor intimidate you.
You are for me – Dear Motherland,
Dear for one’s own freedom.)
 

 
He is singing the same song, which he used to sing at Soviet concerts, at concerts in today’s Russia. Kobzon is the main star of many official state concerts like Days of Russian Army, Russian Militsia, Russian Federal Bureau of Security (FSB), Victory Day, etc. However presently he modified his lyrical-patriotic repertoire and besides Soviet time ofitzioze hits he sings songs from and about the pre-revolution Russian empire and its glorious army.
 
Kobzon was the symbol of previous glorious times and is proper to become such for the re-born strong Russia. Being almost dead professionally he managed to find his place under the new conditions. With the same sincerity he was singing about the Communist ideals he presently sings about the White Army officers. His sincerity about what he does and sings nowadays is like his wig, seems even more artificial then it was in the Soviet times. If 20 years ago there were disputes whether he has a wig, presently no one has doubts.
 

 

*Klaudia Shulzhenko, Lev Leshchenko and Iosif Kobzon – leading Soviet propaganda singers. 

Andrey Makarevich, alternative rock music star and member of the band “Mashina Vremeni.”.

Lyrics: M. Nozhkin, Composer: D. Tuhmanov.

Non-poetic translation of song by authors of the article.

 
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