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ince February 2022, Russian citizens have been trained around the clock by Russian authorities to be proud of the war against Ukraine. Vulgar militarism has been turned into an official aesthetic despite tens of thousands of dead people, millions of refugees, Russia’s international isolation, and Ukrainian cities being largely destroyed or deprived of heating and electricity. Nevertheless, things must be bad for Putin: he has to recruit legionnaires from prisons for his idiotic war and threaten the world with an untested nuclear missile.

The Kremlin aggressively agitates the population of Russia to go to war and showers awards on propaganda soldiers who glorify the invasion. The Russian government actively stimulates folk celebrations in honor of the heroes of the SMO (Special Military Operation) and erects monuments to them across Russia and occupied Ukrainian regions. This public propaganda campaign is taking the ugliest forms.

War is presented as hope for an exit from the misery of the Russian provinces, as a ray of light in the dark tunnel of everyday problems, as an opportunity to earn a good living – even as a way to get rich – and eventually to build a pleasing personal life.

The state-run war-supporting outreach program bears all the hallmarks of a Soviet method. Mobilization cures drug addiction and alcoholism: either get high, or go and fight for the Fatherland. Solve your apartment issue: become a soldier and leave behind those annoying relatives or neighbors in the communal flat. Volunteer now! Look after yourself and your family through benefits from the State, free medical treatment for yourself and family, veteran combat status – in short, the respect of the surrounding tribes!

Russians are bombarded with propaganda from all sides, brow-beaten into supporting the war. Churches pray for Russian troops fighting the world evil. In schools, children are asked to write letters to hero-soldiers who protect Russia from NATO. State enterprises hold patriotic rallies and organize voluntary fundraising for the operation on denazification of the Ukraine. Federal TV channels are full of propaganda hits performed by Russian pop stars of varying calibers. Commercials by private military companies fighting in Ukraine stream solicitations to apply; others to sign a contract with the Russian army.

Clumsy agitation videos are shot with third-rate actors shared with the most mediocre social advertising (respect your elders, wash your hands before eating, get the flu vaccine now!), or play in provincial theatres. Scripts are banal, though sometimes unbelievable. For example:

  • A married woman looks with lust at a stranger who has signed a contract with the Conscription Office, and exclaims with envy in her eyes: “Well, you cut the mustard in military service! You’re the real deal, not like my klutz at home.”
  • A father, a veteran of the Chechen conflict, returns home from the war in Ukraine, and hands his happy daughter a new iPhone.
  • A grandson, having served under Army contract in Ukraine, rescues his poor grandfather, who dreamed of buying real beef sausages in the supermarket, for which it would be necessary to sell the much beloved dilapidated family car, a Russian Lada. But the miserable abomination of the Soviet car industry is saved by Army benefits! Grandfather looks with pride at his patriotic grandson.
  • Neighbors look with contempt after the black Mercedes containing a businessman in an elegant coat in the back seat, who decided to emigrate and is therefore a traitor to the Motherland.
  • The camera pans over a chalk-covered door: Here lives the defaulter. Two ruffians squeeze a puny youngster on the porch, collecting an overdue “debt.” The young man resolutely smiles and declares to the confused mobsters that he signed up for the Russian Army and in return gets 100% both credit and and tax holidays. “I owe only to the Motherland!” proudly declares the young man. The collectors clean the debtor’s door and leave empty-handed. A voice announces: “Choose – go to defend yourself against debt collectors, or go to defend the Motherland!”
  • It’s late evening on the TV screen. A confused Father Frost with a magic cane and a big sack of presents hitchhikes on the side of a desolate highway. Out of the snowy fog emerges (ta da!) an armored personnel carrier with a Russian flag. Father Frost thankfully climbs the military vehicle, positioning himself between the front hatch commander and a 30mm machine gun mounted on the roof of the turret. He swings a red gauntlet at a surprised traffic officer. Father Frost then relates an old “legend” about how his sled got stuck in the snow, but he was saved by Russian warriors who allocated the armored personnel carrier to the Russian grandfather, because real Russians do not abandon one of their own. The moderator calls to the audience for New Year greetings to the heroes of the special military operation in Ukraine where they protect Russia from NATO villains. Father Frost, a few soldiers sitting on the armed vehicle, and the crowd dance in the cold and wave joyfully at each other. The New Year is no longer a family holiday – it has been rearranged into a war propaganda.

Every hour, cheerful TV chatter explains how the mobilization is a way to pay off debts and stop running from creditors: Remember – while you are defending the Motherland, the Motherland protects you. The narrator solemnly reminds the viewing audience that anyone who participates in the SMO in Ukraine automatically falls under Federal Law 377, freeing from debts anyone caught in a difficult life situation.

Indeed, for millions of Russians, participation in this criminal war is the only avenue not only to avoid paying debts, but also to earn money (for example, the allowance paid to the family of a dead soldier). It’s even a chance to get out of jail, as one of the many freed prisoners now fighting in Ukraine. Go to war, kick the bucket in Ukraine, free your family from the debt headache!  

But the climax of the propaganda bacchanalia is a bluesy-pop hit song eulogizing the Russian ballistic missile Sarmat, aimed at the United States and anxious to take off. After viewing this unparalleled video clip, one suspects that some sort of mass psychosis is abroad in Russia, in which they preach the optimistic cult of heroic suicide in the name of the national ideal: victory over NATO. The song is four and a half minutes of sarcasm about how great global nuclear war is! Sarmatushka is, in fact, a cheerful song about Russian readiness to blow the entire planet to hell.

And the bourgeoisie of the world trembles
On their way to hell,
And our mighty handsome Sarmat is on high alert

The Sarmatushki are watching the United States
From Mother Russia…

There have been many suicidal sects in the history of mankind, and it is the enthusiasm before death, it is the death laughter that the preachers want. They are hungry for people to die with a triumphant smile; otherwise it doesn’t count. Thus, the humor. We will merrily burn in a nuclear bonfire! All together! Ha-ha-ha!

The rhymes were concocted by Dmitry Rogozin, former Russian Representative to NATO, retired head of RosKosmos (the Russian Space program). The music was written by Acting Deputy Chairman of the Culture Committee, Denis Maidanov. In the music video Maidanov, with shaven head, clad in fatigues, wanders the corridors of the Strategic Missile Forces Academy Training Center at night. He sits in a leather chair at a table with a green Narkom – Stalin era lamp and the golden coat of arms of the Russian Federation on a bakelite phone. The TV is turned on. The song begins inexorably. In the middle of the festively-decorated hangar with missiles on each side, there is a military band and a choir of coquettish women in fancy hats – not the Red, but the bed army of today. Maidanov, smiling carnally like a porn actor before intercourse, sings an ode to a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile:

He doesn’t care about the US BMDS (ballistic missile defense system),
He’s not afraid of sanctions,
The only joy for Sarmat is to disturb the bedtime of NATO!
An almighty charge awaits the command to hit the enemy holes,
Oh Russian Sarmat…

The camera twitches on the steel rivets of the rocket’s body, and on the button Start on the remote:

Hey, Mother Russia,
Sarmat is ready for the battle,
Believe us, Grandma with the red flag!

The lyrics abound in wishful thinking for launch. The macho Maidanov did not serve a day in either the Soviet or the Russian army. The missile itself is not even up for combat duty: there was one test, with just one successful launch, which they repeatedly show on TV. Finally, Red Flag Grandma is Anna Ivanova from the Ukrainian village of Tsirkuny; another embarrassment!

Ivanova became widely known due to a mistake she made: during the invasion, the 70-year-old woman mistook Russian soldiers for the Ukrainian ones, and Kremlin propaganda turned her into a symbol of the people’s opposition to Ukrainian fascism. Later Russian TV channels claimed that Kiev had taken Red Flag Grandma hostage and that she was repressed for her views and principles. In her interview with BBC World, Mrs. Ivanova confirmed that she was in hospital rather than being held hostage. She also said that she did not oppose the Ukrainian authorities, and spoke firmly against the occupation of Ukraine by Russian troops. Immediately after that, interest in Ivanova as a media personality stopped. But the song continues.

Hey, Mother Russia,
Reload, Ivanushka!
God is with us and Sarmat too!

Isn’t that sensational? Wasn’t that the same thing printed on the badges of Nazi soldiers' belts – Gott mit Uns? And Russian enthusiasts stunned by Sarmatushka scribble in social networks: “Thank you for such a real song, we wish our Sarmats flight missions to Washington as soon as possible!” So much for the “peaceful sky” also mentioned in the same comments!

However, real life doesn’t unfold without remarkable coincidences. The premiere of the song idolizing a nuclear missile took place on December 17. On December 21, the lyricist – the very same Dmitry Rogozin, former Russian space-program head and rep to NATO – decided to go to Donetsk to celebrate his birthday. While there, he came under fire from a Ukrainian multiple rocket launcher (MRL) strike and caught a shard ... in some inglorious places. The official press of the Donetsk People’s Republic reported: “Rogozin received shrapnel wounds in soft head tissues, a penetrating shrapnel wound of the left thigh, and a penetrating shrapnel wound to the buttocks.”

At the very end of the music video you can see a fragment of one of the most sinister appeals of Russia president, specially integrated into the clip, where shining with anger Putin threatens a nuclear strike in order to save Russia from the aggressors and at the same time admits that it would be a catastrophe for all mankind, for the whole world, but immediately resorts to a clumsy argument, saying that why a world without Russia is needed?

Things must be bad for Putin, yet the ridiculous limericks written by his butt-injured lackey are not as vulgar as the daily killing of Ukrainian civilians.

About the Author

Dmitri Beliakov, born in Russia in 1970, is an award-winning photojournalist. In his 28-year career he has covered seven conflicts, including the First and the Second Chechen Wars, the Russian-Georgian conflict of 2008, the war in Syria, and the war in the Donbass area. Among his many professional awards are: the OPC Borovik Award in 2005; First Place in the NPPA Portrait Series Awards in 2010; First Place in the POY Print Feature Story Editing/ Magazine in 2015; and the Amnesty UK Media/Photojournalism Award in 2019. His detailed profile can be found at his personal websites:;

The 2022 Edition of the Journal of Peace and War Studies (JPWS)

2021 cover to the peace and war journal The 2022 issue of the Journal of Peace and War Studies gives special focus to the theme, “Deciphering the Russian Riddle: National Interests and Geopolitical Competitions.” Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has frightened the international community, in this special edition, a group of prominent scholars analyze various Russia-related issues and provide unique insights.
Read online or download the 2022 JPWS Journal

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