Back in mid-February GIITTV featured exclusively in the UK news of the recording of a single in Stockholm in support of two members of the band Pussy Riot who had fled Russia late in 2017, settled in Sweden with their family and who had recently attempted to achieve asylum status there by means of a residence permit. To the surprise of many they failed, although they were given leave to appeal and the idea for the recording was born.
Not all went to plan. Objections were raised to certain aspects of the recording by the two people concerned – Aleksej Knedljakovsky and Lusine Djanyan.
However, the producer, Claes Olson, and Fredric Ceson, the leader of veteran cult band The Pillisnorks, decided to press ahead anyway with a new subtext – as a protest against the policies of the country’s Migration Board in general – and the song is released on Wednesday 6th March.
It is based on the original version of ‘Putin will teach you how to love the motherland’ which members of Pussy Riot were attempting to perform during the Olympic Games at Sochi in 2014, when they were whipped and pepper-sprayed by Cossacks (paramilitary police, the same ones involved in the 1905 massacre on the Odessa Steps, which is widely regarded as the first step towards the 2017 Russian Revolution). Both Knedljakovsky (bloodied, in yellow vest) and Djanyan (purple dress, green leggings) appear in the video below.
Fredric Ceson translated and rewrote the lyrics into English while The Pillisnorks provided the main backing. The spoken voiceovers are by Swedish Royal Theatre actress Thérèse Brunnander and American drummer Michael Blair who has been domiciled in Stockholm for many years and who has worked extensively with the likes of Lou Reed, Tom Waits and Elvis Costello.
The choir, led by Maria Grönlund, is made up of 45 Swedish indie artists who gave their time for free. They include members of bands and individual artists that have featured in GIITTV’s monthly Nordic Music Scene, such as RÅNDA, Cure-a-Phobia, SoLBloMMa, Leigh Fitzjames, LULA, Le Lac Long 814 and The Comminor’s Johanna Berndtsson, a neo-punk female singer who might be Sweden’s answer to Keith Flint. They were supplemented by institutions in the business there such as Stefan Sundström and Miss Li.
To add authenticity, the Experimental Electronica Artist Linn Elisabeth created sound from a Russian 80-Talssynth.
Knedljakovsky and Djanyan await the outcome of their appeal.
On the anniversary of the Salisbury poisonings in the UK it is evident that, while the nuance of the song may have shifted a little, a degree of courage is needed even to enter into broad support of a cause such as this, as all the participants did. If anyone doubts the danger that activists in Russia are in (which the Migration Board rejects) it is worth remembering that while the four Pussy Riot members who ran on to the pitch during the World Cup Final were jailed for only 15 days, one of them, Pyotr Verzilov, claimed later to have been poisoned while attending a court hearing.
And Knedljakovsky claims to have been an associate of Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated within sight of The Kremlin four years ago.