ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — A choir in the Russian city of St. Petersburg has defended its decision to sing a satirical Soviet-era song about a nuclear attack on the United States after critics said the performance was a poor choice amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington.
A video of the St. Petersburg Concert Choir's performance in the iconic St. Isaac's Cathedral was posted over the weekend but only attracted attention Tuesday. The choir closed its social media page to comments after it was inundated with indignant remarks
During its Saturday concert marking Russia's military holiday, the choir included the untitled song from 1980 that jokingly describes Soviet submariners and bomber pilots preparing to launch a nuclear attack on the U.S. "for three rubles."
The choir said in a statement Tuesday that it performs a variety of songs as they originally were written and refuses to "rewrite lyrics for the sake of political correctness."
St. Isaac's Cathedral, which hosted the concert, told The Associated Press the song was not on the pre-approved program for the St. Petersburg choir's concert but performed as an encore, and that the cathedral does not approve of it. .
Underground performer Andrei Kozlovsky wrote the song as a 21-year old university student in 1980 as political satire and it was never known to the broad public. The lyrics include the line, "Forgive us, America, fair America, but 500 years ago they discovered you for nothing."
Critics of the choir's performance said that while the song originally was intended to mock the weapons buildup by world superpowers, the satire might be lost on audiences now given the bellicose rhetoric coming from the Kremlin and state TV news programs presenting scenarios for how Russia's weapons would do in a nuclear war.
President Vladimir Putin sternly warned the United States against deploying missiles in Europe, saying during his state-of-the-nation speech last week that Russia would retaliate with new weapons designed to reach targets rapidly.
Dmitry Kiselyov, an influential state media executive, followed up on Putin's statement during his Sunday news program. Kiselyov named the U.S. command centers that could be targeted by the new Russian hypersonic missiles.
He also displayed interactive maps with calculations of how quickly the Russian missiles could strike targets on the east and west coasts of the United States.