The Pugacheva effect. Will the singer make the Russians think?

Alla Pugacheva's declaration, in which the diva of the Soviet and Russian stages criticised Vladimir Putin's military policy, caused a great stir. Especially in ... the West. If it touched the Russians, it was a delayed reaction.

Although she has been living with her family in Israel for a long time and was cursed by "patriots", Alla Pugacheva is still at the forefront of Russian gossip websites. Each of her steps has been recorded and commented on. For example, attending a performance at the Gogol Center in Tel Aviv last Tuesday evening. The viewers greeted the celebrity with an ovation and did not forget to play her unforgettable hit “Million Scarlet Roses". Alla was really moved and close to tears, and her husband was recording everything from the side with his phone. It was because of Maxim Galkin, a comedian popular in Russia, that Pugacheva decided to leave her homeland. And she did it in style, with a bang.

Political declaration

September 18, 2022. Over 3.5 million people who follow Alla Pugacheva's Instagram account open their eyes wide with amazement. Here the artist asks the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation to recognise her as a "foreign agent", and this is exactly what the establishment did with her husband two days earlier for being against Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Galkin is "a true and incorruptible patriot of Russia, who wishes his fatherland development, peaceful life, freedom of speech and that our boys will stop dying for the illusory goals, that make our country a pariah, that hinder the lives of our citizens," writes Pugacheva.

Although she does not directly condemn the invasion of Ukraine, she makes it clear what she thinks about it. It is a strictly political statement that evokes strong emotions. But does it mean that Pugacheva will be active in politics from now on? And to what extent does this declaration reflect the actual views of the celebrity? We do not know for sure, but we can guess by observing the singer's career.

The Soviet diva

It is 1981, and Alla - at the peak of her professional career - goes to perform in Kazakhstan. The local party caciques come late – they sound tipsy and noisy - but finally reach their seats, in the first row, of course. Pugacheva interrupts the concert and turns to them with hardly concealed irony: “Hello, my friends! Make yourself comfortable. I will wait for you. Did you sit down? Can we continue? Thank you very much!".

They later complained about her to the Central Committee, but it ended up only in the educational conversation.

The artist described her attitude towards the government in the Soviet times as follows: “I always said: well, if you take me off the stage, I will write books. If you forbid books, I will draw; if you forbid that as well, I will still come up with something new and live as I want to, with a sense of the same inner freedom. And they needed to tolerate this”.

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But she also tried very hard so there would never be a problem with her. Let’s take for example her refusal to accept an invitation to participate in a musical with ABBA. The message was pacifist, but Pugacheva was afraid that it would be considered as anti-Soviet in her country.

Anyway, the singer's correct relations with the authorities can be proved not just by the fact that Pugacheva received (as the penultimate one) the honorary title of People's Artist of the USSR - six days before the collapse of this state.

She is considered the biggest star of popular music in the last two decades of the Soviet Union's existence. In the early 1980s, a joke was popular in the USSR: “Who is Brezhnev? A minor politician in the era of Alla Pugacheva! ”. The singer's popularity survived even the times the Soviet Union was falling apart.

However, Pugacheva somehow valued the gravedigger of the USSR, or at least appreciated him many years later. This is what she wrote about Mikhail Gorbachev on Instagram on the occasion of his funeral: “It's been a long time since I cried like this. Gone are the days when we gained freedom and ceased to be the "Empire of Evil" for the world - when the fear for our children’s future disappeared. And most important - Gorbachev rejected violence as the way to pursue politics and stay in power. "

  Alla also knew how to live on good terms with the new government; although the system was supposed to be different, democratic, in capitalism - not communism, it was still very much the same, even if only mentally.

" Yeltsin's c**t”

In 1993, the Russians witnessed the Kremlin's escalating conflict with their “White House”, that is, between the president and the parliament. In April, Boris Yeltsin organised a referendum that contained four questions: about trust in the president, about the policies of the president and the government, about early presidential elections, and early parliamentary elections. The Kremlin called for the YES, YES, NO, YES vote. This was the slogan of the campaign. Pugacheva took the opportunity to record a song with this title - "Da, da, niet, da", that is: “Yes, yes, no, yes”. Although the text was not political at all.

Three years later, she supported Yeltsin's election campaign by singing for the voters. She later admitted that it was not for free, justifying her involvement in one of the candidate’s battles: “I was getting a lot of money for my performances, and I'm not ashamed to talk about it. Why pretend that artists attended the election show for free? There were no performances for ideological reasons; there were none! And that's normal; elections are expensive all over the world. "
In April 1999, on the occasion of Alla Pugacheva's 50th birthday, president Boris Yeltsin awarded her with the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 2nd class Photo Reuters Photographer / Reuters / Forum
Though her support was not only restricted to concerts, when you consider Pugacheva’s popularity, her opinion did matter. In the interview with Leonid Parfyonov on NTV (Russia), she said: “I urge everyone to vote for Yeltsin. It does not mean specifically for him. I want to support the development path that our country has chosen. " “It seems that Zyuganov has changed his mind about his communism about a thousand times; He also wants to live a normal life, not just to rule ”. It was June 14, 1996, just two days before the election.

Yeltsin's head of security, Alexandr Korzhakov, mentioned years later in an interview that his president didn’t like all the music stars: “Generally Yeltsin did not like music and all pop singers. For example, he called Pugacheva a c**t."

This way or the other, no Kremlin host would allow himself to ignore Pugacheva's popularity. To mark the singer’s 50th birthday, Yeltsin awarded her with the Medal of the Order "For Merit to the Fatherland", 2nd class. Later on, in Putin's time, Pugacheva celebrated her 70th birthday in the Kremlin.

Big and small

However, there was a period in Pugacheva's life when her relationship with politics was not limited to just singing for the rulers, either under pressure or for money. In 2011, the star supported presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov, becoming a member of his Social Council. And of course, she sang a song about him. Not a very sophisticated one though, because it is titled "The Highest" (actually 6 feet and over 7 inches is a considerable height, especially when you think of Putin).

- Finally, a real man who is ready to do something for the country has appeared. He thinks like me. I am ready to support him in everything - assured Pugacheva, to whom Prokhorov wanted to assign the whole load of affairs related to the status of women in Russia.

In the presidential election, the billionaire got nearly eight percent of the vote, taking third place. But based on the few million people who supported him, Prokhorov founded the Civil Platform party. Of course, Pugacheva joined it. She left three years later, at the same time as her political idol. Apparently, until now, she has had an excellent relationship with this businessman, who once was the leader of two parties with a conservative-liberal profile.

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Alla kept a polite distance from Putin and even supported him in the 2000 campaign. But twelve years later, he was a rival of her candidate: “I have great respect for Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, I voted for him in 2000, and I am not taking this back. However, it seems to me that even an intelligent and engaging politician like him should not stay in the same place. The political scene, like any other, requires new names. "

The Kremlin has forgotten it or rather decided to remain silent. In 2014, Putin awarded Pugacheva the Medal of the Order "For Merit to the Fatherland", 4th class. Five years later, he congratulated her on her 70th birthday. Pugacheva, for her part, did not comment on politics, trying to avoid criticism from Putin.

The limits of criticism

The Kremlin did not like the diva, but could not afford any decisive actions either. Not only because of Alla's popularity among Russians. After all, these few critical words of the regime were quite meaningless for the rulers. Yet, she made sure to stay within a certain limit of criticism.

So both sides lived in a kind of symbiosis. Even in the first half of the 1990s, the term "Alla Pugacheva effect" was used by political technologists. This is how the success of famous politicians from the capital city was described, when they travelled to the hostile territory during the campaign, and the halls were full of people. Because in the "Alla Pugacheva effect" it was not about what was said, but who said that - in this case, a political celebrity.

For years, and especially after 2014, it has been difficult to consider Pugacheva a conformist accepting Putin's policy of aggression. But at the same time, she did not allow herself to be openly critical. The current war in Ukraine has changed the situation.

Although the singer was silent, her husband did not mince his words. “Early in the morning in touch with relatives and friends from Ukraine! It is impossible to express what I feel! How can it all be? There can be no excuse for war! NO for the war! " - he wrote on February 24 on his Instagram profile, followed by almost 10 million people.
After Russia's aggression in Ukraine, Alla Pugacheva remained silent, but her husband, Maksym Galkin did not mince his words. In the photo are the artists in 2021 at the film's premiere in Moscow. Photo Sergey Karpukhin / TASS / Forum
At the end of March, Alla with her husband and two children, left for Israel. Pugacheva was silent, but Galkin continued to criticise the invasion of Ukraine. In August, Pugacheva returned to Russia. Her relatives were also to come back. But then the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation entered Galkin on the list of "foreign agents". Two days later, Pugacheva published her famous post.

The Kremlin officially ignored the singer's return and her public appeal. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment. Over 900,000 people liked Pugacheva’s post on her Instagram, including another celebrity Kseniya Sobchak.

It is undoubtedly more of a declaration based on her personal reasons than on political grounds, but it has political implications. And although Pugacheva does not use the word "war" and has not even once condemned the Russian crimes, the position of such a famous person may force millions of Russians to think.

After this kind of political coming-out, Pugacheva seems to have finally left Russia (perhaps most of the matters related to the closure of business and the liquidation of assets in that country have been resolved). It has been confirmed that she is in Israel now. “I thank my multi-million army of fans for their love and support, for their ability to distinguish between what is true and false. From the Holy Land, I am praying for you and peace, ”- she wrote on her Instagram.

"Now, her place is in the USSR museum", "it is a parody of the Decembrist’s wife" - this is how the State Duma Deputies assessed Pugacheva's speech. Even stronger words were used by clergy members of the church faithful to the Kremlin. It is pretty impossible to quote the television propagandists of the Kremlin before 10 p.m..

“How lucky it is to be hated by those whom I couldn’t stand. If they liked me, this would mean I was singing and living in vain. Let them grind their teeth; they were servants, and now they become enslaved." This is how the artist reacted to this load of rubbish.

Today she enjoys freedom and wealth which, to a certain extent, she gained thanks to being a servant of the Kremlin as well, and that was for several decades; Although she will probably always convince you otherwise.

In 1996, a journalist from NTV( Russia), then a top-rated private television, asked Pugacheva this question: “You don't have anything to worry about, do you? No regime change will change Pugacheva in Russia - you will always sing, with any authority ”. What did Alla say? “I grew up among people and sang among people, under any command. But I sang for the people. The big difference for me is the mood of the person who comes to the concert. "

–Grzegorz Kuczyński

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and journalists

–translated by Katarzyna Chocian
Main photo: Alla Pugacheva has been received at the Kremlin by every subsequent president. In April 2009, on the occasion of her 60th birthday, the singer was the guest of Dmitry Medvedev, who awarded her an order. Photo: MIKHAIL KLIMENTIEV / RIA NOVOSTI / KREMLIN POOL/EPA/PAP
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