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by John Helmer, Moscow 

Russianness is now banned in many parts of the unfriendly world.

In Australia the banning started in earnest when the Ukraine war commenced in 2014. Already I had been banned by the state’s Australian Broadcasting Commission, then the commercial mainstream press from 2013. Just before, on September 9, 2012, 3MBS, a public subscription classical music station in Melbourne, invited me to talk about Russia and play my selection of Russian music.  This broadcast, the words in English and the Russian music, can never be heard in that country again.

Much is said in this broadcast, and more played, of the Russian experience of foreboding, of personal loss,  though not of national defeat. Defeat is what the unfriendly countries are inflicting on themselves.

Think about what this means now, wherever you are.  

Click to listen:



Play Sheet


Q: Why did you go to Russia?

A: Secret mission, espionage – surviving the KGB

Rimsky-Korsakov, Wedding procession from Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh (1905)

Q: What was it like opening the first Australian newspaper bureau ever in Moscow? What was Moscow like in the last days of the USSR? What contact did you have with Russian music, musicians , the other arts?

A: Opening the news bureau for Australia –the Bolshoi Theatre for operas – the “blue row”,  Stalin’s secret door; trading tickets for favour at the Conservatoire; saving the performance tapes for recording; Radio Orphee – the world’s largest classical music radio (9 million people)

Rimsky-Korsakov, Levko’s  Serenade, from May Night (1879)  

Q: What was your assessment of Boris Yeltsin? Mikhail Gorbachev? The armed incidents of 1991, 1993?

A: How Russians reacted then to foreigners. On every corner, a John Redd – the extraordinary role of the English-language press during the post-Soviet revolution – three English-language newspapers circulating side by side during the “hot” years (I wrote for them all)

Prokofiev, Battle of the Ice, from Alexander Nevsky (1938)

Q:  Russian music is famous for its gloom and foreboding – why is that? And what about romance?

A:  How I tried to revive the art of Russian chanson  and the greatest of the Russian romans singers of the generation, Evgenia Smolyaninova

Smolyaninova, Ding-ding-ding (1994)   

Q: And what of your life outside Moscow, in the countryside? Do you have a dacha? Do you know Peredelkino, the writes’ colony where Pasternak had his dacha?

A:The resilience of the Russians in their villages – the story of Ivanchikovo, the exorcism at my dacha, planting my rose garden – Ella Zhukova and her father, Marshal Zhukov’s strategic principle of attack by swarm

Q: What is it like growing up as a child in Russia today? What has been the evolution of popular music?

A: The story of the Russian children I’ve known

Kino, Pack of Cigarettes  (1988)

Q: What is the political future for Russia?

A: The men who stole the country – traitors in Russia – why is Russia different from Norway (Quisling), France (Laval)


Melnitsa: The Master of the Mountain Roads (2003)

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