“Russians” is the third song from English musician, singer, songwriter and actor Sting and his debut solo album “The Dream Of The Blue Turtles“. The album was released in June 1985 through record label A&M. The new wave and art rock song is a commentary on the then occurring Cold War, as well as the ideology of “mutual assured destruction” (MAD) by the US and the then existing Soviet Union.
Written by Sting, the song also features song-writing credits from Sergei Prokofiev, a prominent Russian composer. In “Russians“, Sting uses the the “Romance” theme from the Prokofiev’s “Lieutenant Kijé”. The lead into the song contains a snippet from Soviet news program “Vremya“, in which well-known Soviet news broadcaster Igor Kirillov says in Russian: “…The British Prime Minister described the talks with the head of delegation, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, as a constructive, realistic, practical and friendly exchange of opinions…” – this is referring to the meeting between former Soviet politician Mikhail Gorbachen and Margaret Thatcher in 1984, in which the Soviet leader at the time was Konstantin Chernenko.
Lyrically, Sting uses “Russians” as a demonstration to politicians that war affects everyone, and emphasises that all humans are equal and ultimately the same when it comes down to it – this is stated in the chorus:
“We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
What might save us me and you
I hope the Russians love their children too“
In the first verse, Sting blatantly criticises the West for it’s need to respond to any other political issue outside their part of the world, and their almost narcissistic desire to solve issues through a Western perspective:
“In Europe and America
There’s a growing feeling of hysteria
Conditioned to respond to all the threats”
It’s important to note that Sting critiques politics in general in the track, and that it is not solely an attack on one country, political party or issue, but rather as a whole. In 1985, Sting spoke Record Magazine about the track and his belief that politics and world issues should not lie in the hands of well-known politicians:
“I feel very strongly that in order to relax East-West tension, you can’t leave it to the politicians anymore – they’ve proved themselves totally inept: lt’s up to individuals to […] confirm that they are human beings and not demographic sub-robotic morons… I felt that it was important to go to the Soviet Union […] unfortunately I came up against the bureaucracy that politicians put in front of you. It’s not easy to get into the Soviet Union to make a record – and it should be […] It’s not a pro-Soviet song, it’s pro-children.”
In 2010, Sting also revealed that he was inspired to write the song by watching Soviet TV through a satellite receiver his friend had stolen:
“I had a friend at university who invented a way to steal the satellite signal from Russian TV […] At that time of night we’d only get children’s Russian television, like their ‘Sesame Street’. I was impressed with the care and attention they gave to their children’s programmes. I regret our current enemies haven’t got the same ethics.”
The music video for “Russians” was released in 1985 and was directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino, and was shot in black and white. The video features child actor Felix Howard, who is seen dancing, as well as in framed pictures while Sting sings to the camera. Uploaded to Sting’s YouTube channel in April 2010, the video had a total of over 27 million views and 121 thousand likes as of early March 2022.
Read the lyrics to “Russians” here.
*All information accurate at the time of publishing.