Songwashing: Russian Popular Music, Distraction, and Putin’s Fourth Term

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This article investigates how the Russian state apparatus, in its diverse, loose, and undercoordinated points of affiliation, used contemporary popular music to its own advantage during Vladimir Putin’s fourth term and before the full-scale war in Ukraine. I propose that the different state branches’ efforts at appropriating music in order to distract audiences can be grouped into a single, novel framework of “songwashing.” This entails the state utilization of the allure of music to cover up domestic political issues, such as problems with legitimation, civic discontent, and minority rights, while promoting a different, positive image abroad. Following two case studies—the 2019 summer festivals Shashlik Live and Meat & Beat in Moscow, and Tajik-born singer Manizha’s participation in the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest—the article also assesses how songwashing mechanisms are exposed and resisted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)682-704
Number of pages23
JournalThe Russian Review
Issue number4
Early online date13 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023


  • Eurovision
  • Protest
  • Russian Popular Music
  • Soft Power
  • Songwashing


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