Russia’s Most Popular Rapper in Trouble After Unpatriotic Statements

Russia’s most popular rapper has gotten himself into trouble. Morgenstern, the stage name of Alisher Valeev, ventured this week to call the annual parades celebrating the victory over Nazi Germany “expensive” and “out of date.”


“I don’t understand much about celebrating a victory 76 years ago. They spend millions on it every year,” the rapper said in an interview. “Probably, there is nothing else to be proud of. Maybe that’s the reason.”

No subject is more sensitive in Russia than the commemoration of the Second World War. Partly due to the high casualty rate – 27 million dead in the Soviet Union – Russians speak of the Great Patriotic War.

President Vladimir Putin, whose parents lost a son during the Siege of Leningrad, uses the war to unite Russians behind his patriotic agenda. Under his rule, victory parades have become bigger than ever, with tens of thousands of soldiers marching across Russian squares on May 9 to the roar of tanks, missile installations and low-flying fighters. Putin also had a camouflage green Russian Orthodox war cathedral built with stairs made from melted down Nazi tanks.

And so, after Morgenstern’s statements, the turnips are done. A veterans’ organization announced a lawsuit immediately after the interview. Putin’s spokesman Dmitri Peskov accused Morgenstern of “a lack of knowledge”. The 23-year-old rapper apologized on Instagram, but it was already too late.

An entertainment channel cancelled the show’s premiere that Morgenstern was supposed to present, and the prosecution is investigating whether the rapper can be prosecuted under the law against “rehabilitation of Nazism”. If so, he could face up to three years in prison for “insulting the memory of the defenders of the fatherland.”

With a series of laws and amendments to the constitution, Putin has introduced a ban on critical reflections on history. For example, since last year, the constitution has stated that it is not allowed to “detract from the heroism of the people in defence of the fatherland”. And that ‘historical truth’ must be protected.

The laws are not just being pulled out after critical remarks about the Great Patriotic War. A visitor to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg is also in trouble after he jokingly hung a portrait of himself in the permanent exhibition about Russia’s victory over Napoleon in 1812 last week.

The young man said he didn’t want to hurt anyone, apologized and volunteered at the museum. But he too is no longer certain of his freedom: the Hermitage has asked the Public Prosecutor whether it is possible to prosecute him for insulting homeland defenders of two centuries ago.

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