Last week, Pussy Riot issued a new musical video, attacking the Prosecutor General of Russia, Iurii Chaika, for alleged corruption. This got me thinking about whether musical quality is correlated with political success.
As I mentioned elsewhere recently, N.E. Andreev, a Russian émigré in inter-war Czechoslovakia, remarked in his memoirs that the White veterans he met in Prague lamented that the Reds had had much better songs than them. ‘No wonder we lost’, one of them said. What I wonder is whether this experience can be universalized. Do winners always have better songs than losers?
Having established the research question, like all good political scientists I will now propose a hypothesis, namely:
In any political conflict, the side with the better songs will win.
If validated, this theory will constitute a massive breakthrough in political science. So let us test the hypothesis by looking at the war in Donbass.
Militarily, the rebels have done better than the Ukrainian Army. If the hypothesis is correct, then the rebels ought to have better songs. Do they?
To answer that, let us examine a large sample – two songs (one on each side).
On the Ukrainian side, we have Vitalii Telezin’s 100 Biitsiv (100 Soldiers).
And on the rebel side, we have Kuba’s Vstavai Donbass (Arise Donbass) (not to be confused with another song with the same name by punk rock group Day of the Triffids, which has been adopted as the national anthem of the Donetsk People’s Republic)
To avoid any accusations of political bias, I played these songs to a highly scientific sample of one Canadian teenager, who declared Kuba’s rebel tune the clear winner. The hypothesis has been validated. Victory is indeed correlated with better music.
This is a satisfactory conclusion, but if any political theory is to have real value it must do more than explain the past; it must also be able to predict the future. So what does the theory suggest about the future of Russian politics? Will the ‘Putin regime’ survive, or will its political opponents succeed in destroying it. Let us look at what the music tells us:
On the side of the regime: rapper Timati and his October 2015 hit, Moi luchii drug – eto President Putin (My best friend is President Putin – currently at 8.6 million hits on YouTube).
And against the regime: Pussy Riot’s latest, Chaika (1.68 million hits).
The teenager’s verdict: Timati knows how to rap, whereas all Pussy Riot can do is talk over the beat. Timati wins hands down.
If, as the evidence suggests, my theory is correct, this result means that Putin has no reason to fear for his political future. The music doesn’t lie.