7 Songs To Better Understand Russian Culture

When you’re learning a foreign language or travelling to a new country, it’s often important to know what music is popular there and what songs are well-known to everyone. I decided to share a list of  Russian  songs I consider depict Russian character, values and soul. Enjoy and leave comments if you’ve heard any of the songs before or if you liked any after listening.

1. Pelageya “The horse” – Пелагея “Конь”

To me this song is like an unofficial Russian anthem. Originally the song is performed by Nikolai Rastorguev and his group “Lyube”.  

2. Lyube “Birches”- Любэ “Березы”

This song is also very well-known. The birch as a specific symbol of Russia is in the centre of the song.

“My dear, let sit down for good road.

You should understand that I’ll come back, don’t be sad, do not,” –

And my old mother will wave me goodbye

And close gates.

3. The White Eagle “How delightful evenings in Russia” – Белый Орел “Как упоительны в России вечера”

This song is quite old but still you may feel Russian spirit in it. Maybe nowadays youngsters don’t sing it near the campfire but they definitely know it.

4. Igor Kornelyuk “The city that doesn’t exist” – Игорь Корнелюк “Город, которого нет”

“The city which doesn’t exist” is about St. Petersburg and this song was a soundtrack for a popular TV series “Bandit Peterburg” (Бандитский Петербург) in the crazy 90s.

Who will answer me what is given by destiny?
Let it be not fated to know about it,
Perhaps, behind a threshold of the waisted years
I will find this city which doesn’t exist…

5. Би-2 – Молитва (OST “Метро”) – BI-2 “Prayer”

Splin is a popular rock band and they have many great songs. This one is a soundtrack for the Russian movie “The Metro”, which depicts a touching story.

Hush , showers on the roof slowly breathe before you leap.

I hear all your thoughts, that we close all topsy-turvy .

6. Splin “Romance” – Сплин “Романс”

7. Viktor Tsoi “Star called Sun– Виктор Цой – Звезда По Имени Солнце

Viktor Tsoi, a Soviet singer and songwriter who co-founded Kino, is one of the most popular and musically influential bands in the history of Russian music. Also, there is an English variant for this song by Brazzaville.

And we know that nothing will change, that Fate will favor the one
Him who lives by the rules of his own, him who’s destined to fight and die young
He forgets about the words: ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, ranks and names mean nothing to him
He can reach for any star in the sky, and for him it’s not just a dream
And fall burned by the star known as the Sun

As a great lover of Brazil I’ve already learned two songs for my travelling to Brazil one day – “Ai se eu te pego” and “Amo noite e dia”. 😀 Now continuousy searching for something French, except for Zaz… 🙂 For me it would be really wonderful if you could share songs popular in your country and especially music loved by generations!

TOP-5 Curious Russian Phrases

  • Лезть на рожон 

Meaning: to go towards smb/smth beyond all rationality realizing you’re likely to have lots of trouble afterwards; to do everything possible to get the desired result…

Origin: “Рожон” in the old Russian language (and nowadays in some regional dialects) is a pointed stick. When brave men hunted a bear and approached it they kept the stick in front of them. If the bear impaled itself upon that sharp stick, it died.

  • Попасть впросак

Meaning: to end up in an uncomfortable and disadvantageous situation because of ignorance or mistake

Origin: “Просак” is a spinning machine which people used in the old times to give a twist to a rope. If hair, beard or clothes got into the spinning machine of course there followed unpleasant consequences. 😦

  • Пускать пыль в глаза 

Meaning: to give the wrong impression about personal capabilities

Origin: This phrase comes from the fact that during first flight dishonest fighters took small bags with sand which they threw in the eyes of the competitors. In 1726 this  was forbidden by special decree.

  • Орать на всю Ивановскую 

Meaning: to shout very loudly

Origin: “Ивановская” (Ivanovskaya) is the name of the street where Ivan the Great Bell Tower is situated (It’s on the Kremlin territory). In the XVII century this street was a plaсe where 1) royal decrees were announced loudly; 2) sometimes clerks were penalized here – they were mercilessly beaten with whips, that’s why they shouted.

  • Перемывать кости 

Meaning: to discuss someone else in his absence

Origin: The term dates back to the forgotten ritual of reburial: three years after the death the deceased was removed from the grave, then people cleaned the bones and re-buried. This action was accompanied by the memories of the dead, the assessment of his character, deeds and actions.