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Mainstream, VOL LX No 11, New Delhi, March 5, 2022

Do the Russians Want War? | Yevgueni Yevtushenko (1956)

Saturday 5 March 2022

[Yevgueni Yevtushenko wrote this poem in 1956 after the 20th CPSU Congress]

O, do the Russians long for war?
ask of the stillness evermore,
ask of the field, or ask the breeze,
and ask the birch and poplar trees.

Ask of the soldiers who now lie
beneath the birch trees and the sky,
and let their sons tell you once more
whether the Russians long,
whether the Russians long,
whether the Russians long for war.

Not only at their country’s call
did Russian soldiers fight and fall;
they died that men from ev’ry shore
might live without the fear of war.

Ask those who fought, and those erased,
ask those who at the Elbe you embraced.
These monuments are only for
to show if Russians long,
to show if Russians long,
to show if Russians long for war.

Yes, we can fight when fight we must;
be we don’t wish to breathe the dust
of soldiers brave from ev’ry clime
who give up life before their time.

Ask of the women in our life,
ask of our mothers –ask my wife–,
and you will never wonder more
whether the Russians long,
whether the Russians long,
whether the Russians long for war.

Their answer rises loud and clear
for all men, ev’rywhere, to hear.
The message now is as before:
the Russians do not long,
the Russians do not long,
the Russians do not long for war.

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