Sumner's Tales: Sting talks...
"Very simple idea: The Russians love their children too. Yet I don't think we're meant to believe that... We have to forget the politicians, they're inept. We have to bypass them and in some way look for our counterparts in the Eastern bloc. So in terms of the song, I think of myself as a father of children, and there must be people who feel the same as I do in Russia, there has to be. It's a ridiculous statement to make: the Russians love their children too. And yet it's not. It's the world that's ridiculous. "People should be saying to me, Why the fuck are you writing such a nonsense It's like saying, people breathe. But people are saying, God, that song's really profound, man, you really said it. Well maybe I have, but what a shame..."
"The original idea for the song 'Russians' was to go and record it in Russia with a Russian orchestra. It's not a pro-Soviet song, it's pro-children. It's a very obvious statement to me but one that isn't being made. The wheels were set in motion but it's taken a very long time to do because of the politics of going through the Politburo and having them sanction it. My feeling is that you have to make contact with our potential enemies, people you might be expected to kill or be killed by."
"'Russians' is a song that's easy to mock, a very earnest song, but at the time it was written - at the height of the Reagan-Rambo paranoia years, when Russians were thought of as grey sub-human automatons only good enough to blow up - it seemed important. I was living in New York at the time, and a friend of mine had a gizmo that could pull the signal from the Russian satellite. We'd go drinking and then watch Russian morning shows in the middle of the night. It was apparent from watching these lovingly made kids shows that Russians weren't quite the automatons that we'd been told they were. The song was also precipitated by my son asking me if there was a bomb that existed that could blow up the world, and I had to tell him, "Actually, yeah, there is." So he was introduced to that horror, the horror we've all lived with for most of our lives. It's very cheeky to have stolen a bit of Prokofiev and stuck it in a pop song, but in that context it was right."
Independent On Sunday, 11/94
On his plans to use the Leningrad State Orchestra to record the track Russians...
"Unfortunately it takes longer than three weeks to set up. I'd been naive. The original idea of the 'Russians' song was to record it in the Soviet Union. I feel very strongly that in order to relax East-West tension, you can't leave it to the politicians anymore - they've proved themselves totally inept: lt's up to individuals to make contact with one's counterpart behind the so-called Iron Curtain in order to ascertain and confirm that they are human beings and not demographic sub-robotic morons. So I felt that it was important to go to the Soviet Union and perhaps meet fellow musicians and do something together. Unfortunately I came up against the bureaucracy that politicians put in front of you. It's not easy to get into the Soviet Union to make a record - and it should be. I'd love to take this band to Russia. I think it would freak them out."
"Of course the Russians love their children, but I don't think we're meant to think that. If we're to consider them our enemies it would be easier if we thought of them as being unfeeling, robotic, insects almost. I'm not defending the Soviet model at all," he insists. "I'm just saying that if we're going to save ourselves we have to learn about them and they about us. I don't know how they'll react. Maybe they'll think, 'Who the hell is he to even imply that we don't love our children !' That might piss them off. But really, the song's neither pro-Western nor pro-Soviet... it's pro-children."
'Russians' appears on Sting's debut album, 1985's 'The Dream Of The Blue Turtles'. Released as a single, the track reached #12 in the UK and #17 in the US. A simple but powerful track, the song hasn't been played live since the 1985/86 tour, but in fairness, it has dated a little over the years. The B-side to this single which entered the UK charts just before Christmas 1985 was a delightful surprise being Sting's take on the traditional song 'Gabriel's Message'. This is now is a seasonal favourite amongst fans, and was accompanied by a rarely seen video. The track can also be found on the various artists compilation album 'A Very Special Christmas'. The 12" version of the single also included a live version of 'I Burn For You' recorded in Paris in 1985 and taken from the 'Bring On The Night' album.