REEES Kruzhok, May 10, 2024: “GOYDA and OYDA: Putin’s propaganda narratives through the lens of pro-war and anti-war songs” with Elena Vasyanina

This paper by scholar Elena Vasyanina delves into the influence of Russian propaganda narratives on public perception. Vasyanina presents findings from a content analysis of 70 Russian anti-war songs and 70 pro-war songs (Z-songs), all penned in 2022 and 2023, reflecting on or reacting to Kremlin propaganda narratives related to the war against Ukraine. The assumption is made that songwriters, whether they create “from the heart” or “on commission,” tend to embody in their lyrics what they consider to be important and what emotionally engages them more deeply.

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Propaganda reaches everyone, regardless of their political stance, but supporters and opponents of the war focus on different aspects. For instance, anti-war lyrics often refer to the Kremlin’s nuclear war-mongering rhetoric, a theme much less prevalent in pro-war texts. Some concepts like “Death for the Motherland” or “We’re Russians, God’s with us” garner significant attention from both camps. Narratives and propaganda clichés emphasizing the unique Russian identity and justifying the war are predictably frequent in pro-war songs. Although these narratives are sometimes satirized in anti-war compositions, their traces in lyrics are rare.

The findings of this study hold relevance for those interested in understanding how the Kremlin’s militaristic discourse is perceived among diverse segments of Russian society, from the heartland to expat communities of relocated persons (relokanty). Moreover, they shed light on the role of songs in either reinforcing or challenging propaganda narratives.

Elena Vasyanina was invited to the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies (The Graduate Center – CUNY) as a research scholar in 2022. Since then, she has collected a dataset of pro-war and anti-war songs, which forms the basis for her research of propaganda narratives. Her previous experience includes over 20 years of teaching the Russian language at Moscow State Linguistic University, Moscow State University, University of Iowa, and University of Pittsburgh, and professional career in publishing and advertising. Her PhD research, conducted in Russia and the United States, was focused on the Russian language spoken by immigrants in the US.

Papers for the workshops will be circulated one week prior to the event date and a reminder email will be sent at that time. We meet once per month throughout the semester. We look forward to seeing you!

The CUNY REEES Kruzhok is a space for scholars in the social sciences and humanities to share research in progress for feedback, with a wider aim of connecting specialists focused on this region within CUNY, New York, and further afield. It is co-sponsored by the European Union Studies Center and the History PhD Program at the Graduate Center, CUNY. It is coordinated by Mark Lewis (College of Staten Island/Graduate Center, CUNY), Merrill Sovner (EU Studies Center, Graduate Center, CUNY) and Lukasz Chielminski (Baruch College/CUNY Baccalaureate). It meets on selected Fridays at 12:30 pm ET during the semester. Email to join the mailing list or express interest in presenting.