No, Alla Pugacheva did not use the word “war” in public – it is a punishable offense in Russia. Nor did she explicitly mention Ukraine. Yet what Russia’s most beloved pop star of all time posted over the weekend was like a bomb. This is because millions of Russians see it as a protest, albeit indirect, against what the Kremlin calls its “special military operation”. And Pugacheva is by far the most prominent person to have dared to express such sentiments publicly.
The post on Pugacheva’s Instagram account has a back story. Last Friday, her husband, Maxim Galkin, a famous Russian comedian and until recently a television star, was declared a so-called foreign agent by the Ministry of Justice. Galkin has been living abroad for several months, leaving Russia after a backlash against his criticism of the invasion of Ukraine, as well as missile strikes on Ukrainian cities. Instead of touring Russia, he has since toured abroad, donating proceeds from his appearances to Ukraine.
Pugacheva’s post was a reaction to Galkin’s new “agent” status. In a scathing appeal, she asked the Ministry of Justice to add her to the ranks of foreign agents as well: “For I stand in solidarity with my husband, an honest, decent and sincere person, a true and invincible patriot of Russia who wishes her the prosperity of the motherland, a peaceful life, freedom of expression and an end to the death of our boys for illusory goals which make our country a pariah and complicate the lives of our citizens.”
Alla Pugacheva and her husband, Maxim Galkin, together in 2021
Mixed Instagram reactions
From Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, Pugacheva, 73, enjoys wide respect. For millions of fans, she has been a legend since the 1970s. And, if there is such a thing as the soul of the people, then Alla Borisovna Pugacheva, with her greatest hit, “A Million Red Roses”, l would embody. Pugacheva was also the most internationally known Russian singer for decades. Over 250 million records and CDs with his hits have been sold. Many of his songs are still sung by young and old at Russian parties.
Pugacheva’s private life – in particular her marriage to Galkin, who is 27 years younger than her – is also a subject of constant interest in the Russian media. Unlike Galkin, Pugacheva made no political statements after the start of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Many saw his silence as an eloquent subliminal protest from the Kremlin. But the more open protest this weekend drew mixed reactions.
Some of her 3.5 million Instagram followers wrote: “Respect for Alla”, “Bravo, Alla Borisovna!” and “Alla Pugacheva’s best performance for many years.” Others, however, accused the pop diva of not going far enough to explicitly criticize the war, but simply seeking to protect her husband. Still others called the singer a traitor to her homeland. Russian politicians, artists and other celebrities have all weighed in on Pugacheva’s words.
The “strong slap” of Pugacheva
Political scientist Abbas Galyamov called Pugacheva’s message a “strong slap in the face” for the Kremlin on his Telegram channel. The mere fact of its politicization could create a feeling that “enough is really enough” among Russians.
Political scientist Stanislav Belkovsky went even further on his Telegram channel. “Alla Pugacheva is becoming the de facto leader of the anti-war sector of Russian society,” he wrote.
Pyotr Tolstoy, vice-president of the Russian State Duma, meanwhile accused the singer of having lost her mind: “I regret that Pugacheva, once the most popular singer in the country, has lost touch with reality so much and be in solidarity with those who today wish the defeat of Russia.”
The Kremlin declined to comment on the case. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Pugacheva’s words are “not a matter that has anything to do with the Kremlin.”
This article was originally written in German.