A Russian pianist accepts responsibility for the war

A Russian pianist accepts responsibility for the war


norman lebrecht

February 24, 2022

This is what Alexander Melnikov is telling his audience tonight:

‘It’s hard to imagine anyone further away from politics than I am. I also hate all pre-concert speeches.
But this morning – which I can call the worst morning of my life – I had a knot in my stomach that would prevent me from going on stage unless I can position myself clearly in front of you. Therefore I ask for 2 minutes of your attention:
‘Our civilization is in bad shape. [….] However, we all have our ‘red lines’. The beginning of a war must be the reddest of all red lines for everyone.
‘Of course, it is normal to say that I or millions of other Russians have nothing to do with this war. True, I haven’t lived there for many years and I definitely never voted for Putin or his party. If anything, I’m furious with them for making me feel guilty about being Russian. A feeling that has been with me for as long as I can remember.
‘But that’s not how things work. I feel responsible for this war. Neither I nor my countrymen have done enough to stop it.
It’s happening now that we’re all sitting here in the concert hall. People are dying in a criminal war for no reason.
When I look at humanity, I am infinitely sad. Shouldn’t we fear for our very survival? If we don’t survive, we will also lose Bach, Leonardo, Einstein, Newton or Pushkin. I don’t understand why we allow people like Putin or Trump to do this to our civilization.’
February 24th 2022


  • Gustavo says:

    I felt likewise ashamed about the Brexit farce which has certainly contributed to the perceived instability of what ever we define as “Europe”.

    • Greg says:

      I don’t think a peaceful movement to reclaim the right of the English people to govern themselves can be likened to a brutal war of conquest. A little perspective, please

    • James Weiss says:

      Oh please. It is the UK – the country of Brexit – who is calling for the harshest sanctions while the EU dithers and refuses to get tough.

    • Allen says:

      Ahh Brexit. I wondered how long it would be.

      You’re deranged.

    • Helen says:

      Remind me – which organisation provoked Putin by trying to increase ties between Ukraine and the West.

      • Brettermeier says:

        “Remind me – which organisation provoked Putin by trying to increase ties between Ukraine and the West.”

        Kids, don’t do drugs or you’ll end up like Helen.

      • MacroV says:

        Nobody provoked Putin. Ukraine has every right – as a sovereign state – to strengthen ties to the West. And clearly there was a need, because look at who’s invading them now.

        • Jobim75 says:

          Just as Cuba had every right to develop ties with Russia…..so easy to point the good guys and bad guys. Putin might be paranoid, he reacts against foreign forces circling his country. He warned a long time ago but was never taken seriously. He has a certain idea of his country .

    • Wesley says:

      Even by your Anglophobic standards, that’s an utterly contemptible comment.

    • Maria says:

      Shamed about Brexit? Wanted everyone to vote like you, and then say most of us voted to leave are stupid? There was a choice. Come on, get a life. Brexit, you or Scotland trying to leave the UK, hardly any comparison to what is going on in Ukraine, and or Russia, or the other countries of the old Soviet Union. Pity the Russian people, if they so wish, don’t have the same democratic right to vote out Putin as we had to get out of the EU. We chose and were not forced. Putin is not an inherited King but a President voted in by people and his cronies. The Russian people are the only ones to change the situation. Anything we do from Britain or EU along with NATO I fear will just erupt into WW3. EU tied up with Russia over its gas supply, and particularly Germany – another story! Guilt is a useless and misguided emotion for ordinary Russian people unless in the same room as Putin.

    • Jobim75 says:

      Europe is a farce led by Barroso, Draghi and consort bankers against the people. In France, people refused last evolution by referendum, was shoved into our throats by non representative parliament. Euro was great for Germany and a disaster for our economy, worst commerce balance of all countries. Europe is a culture, an history, not a nation. Now led by unelected commission which interfere with national laws. The farce you are talking about was people’s will deep down, not elite fantasma.

  • A.L. says:

    Well said

  • William Gross says:

    Trump? What did Trump have to do with this? A stand in for any American President?

    • Peter San Diego says:

      Trump has called Putin “savvy” and a “genius” in the last 48 hours.

    • music lover says:

      Cadet Bone Spurs was Putin´s little puppet.He even let Putin interfere in the elections(maybe because of the porn tapes withthe Russian prostitutes)….70 years ago Cadet Bone Spurs would have been grilled for treason on the electric chair like the Rosenbergs.Much more deservedly so than this couple.

      • Whatever says:

        Thank you “music lover” for making the point I’ve been repeating for the last few years: In past centuries, people were shot for lesser treason; in the 1950’s this same political party in the Senate was led by Joseph McCarthy in ruining careers and lives for the merest hint of leftist ideology or Russia-sympathy (how ironic!). And now we’ve had a president and his circle–many if not most of whom are obviously beholden to Putin/Russia, probably deeply so due to illegal financial involvements. Apologist-statements during that presidency and ongoing praising the world’s most evil autocrats would have been clearly recognized as treason at any time in our history before 2016, and let’s not even bring up the events of Jan.6. We also can thank that meddling (which “music lover” refers to) not only for election interference, but for an ongoing plague of disinformation, divisiveness and bad morale here that satisfies the greatest wishes of our enemies. As debate in this forum, this circle–which includes members of congress–feverishly strive to undermine our current president’s efforts on the international stage. Treason in any other era.

    • Jim C. says:

      They’re both authoritarian thugs.

  • ChrisD says:

    It is not ‘a criminal war for no reason’. Messrs Putin and Lavrov have found that the United States is incapable of considering Russia’s security concerns or negotiating. As for Britain. it has a Foreign Secretary who has never bothered to look at a map to see what the Russians are talking about.
    I hope that the Russian campaign is over quickly with far fewer deaths than the predations of America and Britain in the Middle East.

    • Nydo says:

      You know, no country lined up hundreds of thousands of soldiers on the opposite side of the border of Russia in recent years. Negotiating is a two way street, and Putin’s way was more along the lines of “here are my demands; capitulate, or except the consequences”. Face it, this is about Putin wanting to restore his sense of the Russian Empire, and he isn’t really concerned about anything else.

    • MacroV says:

      What security concerns? Ukraine was never going to invade Russia.

  • Tone row says:

    Beautifully and movingly put, though loathe him all one justifiably may, which countries did Trump invade?

    • Whatever says:

      He didn’t say Trump invaded a country. He alludes to what ruthless, unhinged, destructive so-called leaders do to civilization. Trump did everything in his power to systematically destroy this country from the inside out, dismantle every aspect of the legacy he inherited, he was and is an apologist for Putin predating his presidency (think of the arrest of Manafort long before–there’s deep and corrupt involvement with Russia among his circle and that will become clearer before long). You’d think he’s on the Kremlin payroll…..

    • Brettermeier says:

      “Beautifully and movingly put, though loathe him all one justifiably may, which countries did Trump invade?”

      Wasn’t he impeached for withholding military aid for Ukraine? So he kinda helped Putin, didn’t he.

    • Hannah says:

      I don’t know why the fellow mentioned Trump either. Just trying widen his appeal perhaps ? Trump he was not a war monger : he brought about the Abraham accords in the Middle East .

    • Sato says:

      One. The US.

  • Karl says:

    Melnikov speaks well. But nobody in their right mind would hold any unpolitical Russian responsible for Putin’s action.

  • V.Lind says:

    Bravely said.

  • Whatever says:

    This is a beautiful statement. Thank you.

  • Nathaniel Rosen says:

    “Putin or Trump”? What did Trump do?

  • Jack says:

    It’s a touching thing to say but actually smacks a bit of self-aggrandisement.
    He’s a pianist – so he may be slightly overestimating his sphere of influence.

  • soavemusica says:

    Oh, so Orange Man Bad is still the liberal explanation – not the woke weakness of bumbling Biden? The West falsely promised Ukraine & Georgia security, and to Russia no more NATO expansion – just fine US policy for decades? Now Russian musicians are literally apologizing for being Russian. No thanks to this Culture with Cancel. Count the conservatives out, and have fun finding funding.

  • Tom Phillips says:

    What a magnificent statement. Such a shame that so few Russians feel this way.

  • Nikita says:

    Вы все негодяи кто защищает Путина и Россию!!!! Я нахожусь в Киеве на левом берегу, не так давно над моим домом пролетела ракета и упала на жилой многоэтажный дом. Там пожар и разрушения.

    You are all scoundrels who protect Putin and Russia!!!! I am in Kiev on the left bank, not so long ago a rocket flew over my house and fell on a residential multi-storey building. There is fire and destruction.

    • Brettermeier says:

      It pains me to see that we didn’t help with weapons then and are now impeding efforts to ban Russia from using SWIFT.

  • IP says:

    Nice speech but it is Biden, not Trump. With Merkel. And one can put an exact date to it.

  • PGHK says:

    Trump did not attack any country.

  • PGHK says:

    Brexit is the Democratic will of the British people. What does this has to do with the criminal war in Ukraine ?

  • John R. says:

    I think Trump was a horrible president but he at least deserves his due in that his use of the military was more restrained than any recent US president. I am aware of his ignorant comments but still I’m not sure how he gets thrown in this mix ….when there is no mention of Xi or other dictators, etc.

  • Jesús says:

    What has Trump to do here?

  • Andres Carciente says:

    Why to mention Trump in this “pre-concert speech”??? He has nothing to do with this war. If he was the President, Putin would not have dare to begin this war…