Yuri Bashmet: I love President Putin. We will win

Yuri Bashmet: I love President Putin. We will win


norman lebrecht

June 16, 2022

The Russian violist and conductor has given an interview to local media, stating full support for his president and confidence in his victory in Ukraine. Parts of the interview, given after Bashmet received the Hero of Labour award,  have been misquoted by certain music media which have mistaken an interviewer’s quotation – ‘we are doing everything right. And we will win – for his current views.

Here’s exactly what Bashmet said yesterday to Olga Shablinskaya, of Argumenti i Fakti:

‘I love and respect our president and love my country very much – this is my position. You can do whatever you want with me, but I’m not interested in anything abroad, I’ve already played thousands of times there. They paid me and respected me for the fact that, having won back, I left. They respected that I have my home – I didn’t even think of staying there. So even if all the concerts stopped, God forbid, I have something to do.

‘We have a huge country. Do you know how many fanatically devoted to music, talented guys we have, who for 5-8 hours do not hang on the computer, but play the violin or the piano?

‘And the audience?! Nowhere in the world is there such an attitude towards music as we have. You arrive on tour in Magadan, say. Winter. You go from the airport to the hotel and think: who will come to the concert in the evening in such weather? It’s easier to stay at home, turn on the TV. And then you see a full hall: women in evening dresses, men in suits, with ties, and someone even with a bow tie. This also conveys their attitude to what is happening….

‘ I’m afraid that my words may be misinterpreted later, but still I will say: both the Armenian and Uzbek orchestras are good because they are Soviet. I understand that the definition of “Soviet” is treated differently today. But in fact, for example, the magnificent Soviet music school was passed on to Armenian musicians through Mirzoyan…

‘We, Russian musicians, have always been the best. Not grains of sand in the general mass, no. We were the Gagarins there, in their world of classical music.

‘A holy place is never empty, and the concert life will continue there anyway. But, excuse me, among those performers who will take the stage at La Scala or Carnegie Hall, there will not be me and my other colleagues, whose names are not an empty phrase for a Western listener. Yes, I admit: there are good musicians and worthy concert halls there.

‘And what did they do with Tchaikovsky by banning the performance of his music? Whom did they want to hurt, idiots? It’s like cutting your own heart out. The place where love lives, cut off and say: “I don’t need this love anymore.”‘



  • Ludwig's Van says:

    Let the viola jokes begin….

  • No to War says:

    “The Gagarins”, exactly. Gagarin didn’t even go to the space, there is not a single picture of him being there. It was the world’s first photoshop operation

  • Just saying... says:

    He’s not wrong about the quality of Russian musicians, but it leaves a sour taste in the mouth that he supports the disgusting actions being carried out in his nation’s name.

  • JS says:

    Наши больше, наши лучше. How well I remember it! Everything russian was always better, russian cars were also better than Mercedes. I don’t deny that their musicians are good, but Mr. B. illustrates well how an average russian thinks. They are simply the best because they are russian. Point. And they despise everyone else, especially the “rotten West”. And many in the rotten West naively applaud them, completely unaware of their mania of greatness and contempt for other people.

    • Tamino says:

      It’s a trick that plays to their minds collectively. Yes their classical music tradition is rich and a great achievement. So was Gagarin as standing for their scientific and engineering accolades.
      All that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a miserable country, with vast, even unparalleled resources, yet they make nothing of proportion out of it. They are the inventors of the “Potemkin villages” for a reason.

      All this identity crap, where people have to tell themselves they are the greatest, because they are exactly not – a lot like all the hillbillies in the US, mostly away from the coasts there – it’s so sickening.

      “Nationalism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

    • John Kelly says:

      Yes. Drive a Moskvitch a few miles – visit the chiropractor……..

    • Tom Phillips says:

      They are clearly a very morally and mentally diseased people, iregarrdless of technical talent.

      • Tamino says:

        It’s not ok to generalise about a whole people like that. One can criticise their flaws, but not their fundamental humanity.

        “Mentally diseased”. Wow, what’s next? You call them “Untermenschen” and ask to put them in camps?

        • Hayne says:

          “…a lot like all the hillbillies in the US, mostly away from the coasts there-it’s so sickening.”
          and then “It’s not ok to generalize about a whole people like that.” Said the pot to the kettle.

          • Tamino says:

            Fair enough, but I did not call all Americans hillbillies, only some. I didn’t say all of them are “mentally diseased”. Crucial difference IMO

    • zeno north says:

      I’m anti-Putin, am disgusted by Bashmet’s remarks and abhor the war in Ukraine. Let’s be clear though, “Exceptionalism” exists in more varieties than the Russian one.

  • MacroV says:

    Putin sycophancy aside, he is right about the Russian audience; there is nothing like them. They deserve better than Putin. Really, he’s the one cancelling Tchaikovsky.

  • Christopher says:

    Here’s a handkerchief for your nose, Comrade. It seems a bit brown.

  • Jean says:

    ‘And what did they do with Tchaikovsky by banning the performance of his music? Whom did they want to hurt, idiots?’

    Hmm. He could start by asking why the Russians are bombing classical concert halls, opera houses, Tchaikovsky museums and monasteries. — How about that Mr. Bashmet ?

  • Operacentric says:

    Presumably the interview followed a few glasses of his favourite tipple – as usual. He’s also not checked the Western press – I’m not sure Tchaikovsky has been cancelled anywhere major. Yes, he has his Russian homeland and his Russian audiences. He was also very happy to earn his currency in the West when it suited him.

  • Axl says:

    So sad! What could I say! The difference between Russia and West are now almost like between North and South Korea.

    And especially this quote hurts: “Do you know how many fanatically devoted to music, talented guys we have, who for 5-8 hours do not hang on the computer, but play the violin or the piano?”
    As an amateur musician I can say that there’s also life by outside of (classical) music / life is not just playing / doing thing X at the highest level

    • Christian says:

      Some of the greatest musicians on the planet admit that the brain easily turns to mush during long practice sessions. There is no way a Russian can act superior and deny the body’s physiological limits.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    We may strongly disagree with his opinions, but we have to recognize that Yuri has balls.

    • M2N2K says:

      That is precisely the body part that he is apparently sorely lacking these days.

    • Roccapiano says:

      He was probably drunk and not at all lucid. Try the Russians playing the Classic repertoire – Mozart Haydn and Beethoven. They play it like their spoken language – wha wha wha gushy to the middle of the phrase. Instead how about the beginning of the discourse! Stay in Russia and down your vodka Yuri!

  • Sam McElroy says:

    His undergirding arrogance and inflated, nostalgia-fulled sense of national pride is the same, inherited force driving Putin’s self-reincarnation as Peter the Great.

    Putin’s mind is wired to the concept that territorial control = power, even if the post-perestroika era has shown that real power is the ability to trade. Japan demonstrated that concept perfectly in the late 20th century, when its relatively tiny islands produced a diverse portfolio of exportable technologies, something Russia has never managed. Did Russia ever export competitive household appliances, cars, phones….anything, in fact, except fossil fuels? Do you own a single item labelled “made in Russia”? No. All that culture and education never raised Russia above the mediocre, tiny economy that it is today. And Putin knows it. He sees corporate power taking over the world, and he has no reply except the resurrection of dead ideologies, the exercise of which will do nothing whatsoever for the Russian economy or, by extension, the Russian people.

    Thanks to its mineral exports, however, Russia was a fully integrated, trading member of the international community, and with land covering 9 times zones already (think central Europe to California!). All the Russians I know in the “West” have been grateful beneficiaries of the freedoms not enjoyed by their predecessors. They have enjoyed cross-cultural cooperation and integration as much as we all enjoyed Dmitri Hvorostovsky bringing Yeletsky to the Cardiff Singer of the World in 1989. But Putin’s irrational, monochromatic, psychopathic, regressive policy of irredentism is – tragically – a persistent worm of collective epigenetics that simply won’t die, despite the West’s best and ultimately naive efforts to liberate a suffering nation from decades of direst cruelty.

    The whole tragedy reminds me of the “frog and the scorpion” fable. For those unfamiliar, the scorpion asks the frog for a ride across the river. The frog refuses, fearing the scorpion’s deadly sting. The scorpion offers a rational bargain; “why would I sting you, when I would drown myself?” Seduced by reason, the frog agrees. All is well, until half way across when the scorpion, unprovoked, delivers his fatal blow. As they both die, the frog asks, “but WHY?” “I don’t know” replies the scorpion. “I guess it’s just in my nature.”

    Russia’s nature is terrifyingly self-destructive and, in the nuclear age, could very easily bring the world down with it.

  • corruption in Russia says:

    He was drunk again when he gave this so called off the cuff crap?

  • M2N2K says:

    When he and I were both young and knew each other personally, I was actually rather proud of having such a brilliant violist and outstanding musician among my friends, but we have not been in any contact since late 1980s, and these days, when I read about his recent activities and horrifically vile pronouncements, I am getting physically disgusted and truly ashamed for the kind of really atrocious person he has become. Brown-nosing is always bad enough, but doing that for the benefit of a mass-murdering war criminal is so horribly low that for me it is beyond anything imaginable.

  • William Osborne says:

    Sounds like a character out of a Dostoyevsky novel.

  • William-Michael Costello says:

    First of all, the Russian tradition of string playing is not Russian, it is Jewish and they prefer to live in the West. Secondly, Western orch are superior to Russian. The Russians have a certain repetoire that is banged into them from day 1, but limited. I will not deny their great love for Art and Music, but what we and they understand what Art is, is a Western import from the 18th Century. He will not be missed.

    • Tamino says:

      The tradition of string playing in that part of the world is also not Jewish. It is first of all an eastern European tradition of widespread folk music influences, the violin being a very popular instrument in many “tribes” in central, eastern and south-eastern Europe. The Sinti and Roma enjoyed a good fiddle just as much as the Jews, the Romanians, the Hungarians and many others did. It is no coincidence that Odessa, that cultural melting pot on the Black Sea, was a centre of the fiddle playing tradition.

  • Simon Scott says:

    This is absurd. Yuri Bashmet is Ukrainian, not Russian. What the hell is going on?

  • Hmmb says:

    “It’s like cutting your own heart out. The place where love lives” – I think it’s far haemless than bombarding innocent civillians.

  • CROBRO says:

    Go to his wiki page and behold. The guy is the president of Music of the planet Earth. Yawn…

  • Disgruntled orchestra musician says:

    Great chops, enormous sound. Questionable musical taste. Why anyone would be interested in a viola player’s musings on the politics of war is beyond me.