The melody was inspired by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev's Romance melody from the Lieutenant Kije Suite (compiled from the 1933 film Lieutenant Kije).
Sting wrote this during the Cold War, a tense time when Russia and the United States felt threatened by the nuclear missiles they had pointed at each other. Sting's lyrics rhetorically ask if Russians love their children, too, and question why the Russians and the Americans would participate in the Cold War.
Suggestion credit: Jonas - Leverkusen, Germany
"Oppenheimer's deadly toy" refers to the atomic bomb. Robert Oppenheimer was an American physicist who was considered "The father of the atomic bomb." He later regretted his creation, saying he intended it to be used for energy in peace time.
Suggestion credit: Will - Opelika, AL
Sting recalled in Lyrics By Sting: "In this political climate a friend of mine, who was doing research at Columbia University in New York, had a computer system sophisticated enough to intercept the Soviet's TV signal from their satellite above the North Pole. On a Saturday night in New York City we could watch Sunday morning programs for the kids in Russia. The shows seemed thoughtful and sweet, and I suddenly felt the need to state something obvious in the face of all this rhetoric: Russians love their children just as we do."
Sting originally wanted to record this in Russia with the Leningrad State Orchestra, he told Record in 1985: "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."
He added: "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."
This was referenced on the TV series Peep Show, when Jeremy (Robert Webb) and Mark (David Mitchell) discuss the song:
Jeremy: "Do you think he really wondered, Sting, if the Russians loved their children too?" Mark: "No, it's a rhetorical question like, 'can you feel the force?' or 'do they know it's Christmas?'"
This was used to promote the second season of the drama The Americans, which is about Soviet spies living in the US during the Cold War.
Michael from Deridder, La@jess: wait, WHAT?!?! Sting was in concert then? I cant believe i didnt know!
Simon from Saarbruecken, GermanyThe line "How can I save my little boy, from Oppenheimer's deadly toy." makes me shiver. Very moving.
It's quite poetic and metaphoric with its language, but nothing in there is in any way cryptic.
Jess from St. Louis, MoJohn - I saw sting in concert last week (June 2010) and he did state what you posted.
John from San Francisco, CaI attended a Sting concert last weekend and Sting (Concord Pavilion, Concord, CA) described how he came about the song. He had a friend who is scientist and could pick up Russian tv signal through Alaska spy radio antennas. One Sunday night around midnight he was drinking with his friend and watching Russian TV in the early 1980ies. In Moscow it was 10 am and they were showing children programs. Sting noted how vivid and intricate the stories are and he thought of how Russians love their children too. This served as inspiration for this song
Monte from Mankato, Mnthis song has always evoked an emotional response. I can hardly hear or play it without tearing-up.
Carrie from Hefei, ChinaAs a Chinese, the song reminds me of the cold war immediately, we had a hard time during those days, isolated from the west, and we didn't get along well with the Russians, either. In 1950's, people used to learn Russian instead of English as we do now. I totally agree with Sting that ideology is no important compared with life and love, and there is no winnable war. We were one of the countries that suffered most from that period, and I really appreciate that we've changed, although there are still a lot of things to be tackled. And peace needs all people and countries to work for.
Christina from Baltimore, MdI LOVE Sting and the cryptic writing in his song's, especially Russians. He is my favorite artist. I love the dramatic doomsday clock ticking at the end of this song...Sting is SUCH a heavy and intense songwriter with what I would term THE MOST profound lyrics I have ever heard! Christina, Brooklyn, Maryland
Eugene from Moscow, EuropeIn the very beginning of the song, there is a short excerpt from some news broadcasting in Russian language. It's quite low, but clear, if you turn the volume up. Here is an approximate translation: "[The British] Prime Minister described the talks with the head of the delegation, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, as a constructive, realistic, practical and friendly exchange of opinions."
This probably refers to the meeting of Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher in 1984, before he became the leader of the Soviet Union.
Jamee from Oklahoma City, OkI always did like this song. I like a lot of what Sting does. I remember the first time I heard this song, I was about 7 years old, and I saw the video to it in which his wife is giving birth to his son, and the whole time the song is playing. I like the contrast of the sad, kind of dark lyrics while he showed such a deep, beautiful personal moment. Has anyone else seen the video?
Frank from Cambridge, MaThere are so many themes in this song. One that strikes me is 'hysteria'. My interpretation is that we are 'conditioned to respond to RHETORICAL threats'. The message of the importance of not giving in to fear which just escalated an arms race that was far too costly and unnecessary. It's just as poiniant today, since I think citizens of the USA in particular gave in to a spectacle which got us a goverment who controls us with fear and give up so many of our civil rights. It's not so much the actual danger, it's the hysteria that we give in to that is the larger problem.
Dave from Cardiff, Wales"We share the same biology, regardless of ideology"... "There's no such thing as a winnable war, it's a lie we don't believe anymore"... "There is no monopoly of common sense, on either side of the poilitical fence"... Though the Cold War may now be long over and consigned to the history books, those three lines are, sadly, still as relevant to life today as then, in this modern-day world of terrorist attacks and so-called 'Wars on Terror'... Very poignant tune
D from La, CaI think the ticking refers to the Doomsday Clock.
John from Levittown, NyI would imagine the band member arguing with Sting was Stewart Copeland, whose father was a CIA station chief in Beirut. The two apparently never got along and often brawled, including an incident just before taking stage at Shea Stadium where Copeland broke Sting's ribs.
Lalah from Wasilla, AkAnyone out there remember the fear if the Russians won? The song speaks to those of us who did. I'd like to think this song influenced the end of the Cold War.
Louis from North Bellmore, Nythis song is awesome and i love it but all of you are wrong. at the end of this song i believe that the ticking is the ticking of a time bomb waiting to explode
Josef from Corpus Christi, TxI love this song! Whenever I hear it, I get into the mood to bring out my bottle of Vodka and sit down by the river to watch the sun set at the end of my hard day of work...It makes me appreciate what all we have in this world.
Christoph from Warsaw, Poland"How can I save my LITTLE BOY from Oppenheimer's deadly toy" -play on words: The bomb "Little Boy", constructed by Oppenheimer in Los Alamos, exploded over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
Annabelle from Eugene, OrTo me, the ringing at the end sounds like the chime of an old Grandfather Clock or a Mantel Clock. However, in the very beginning, if you listen very carefully, with the ticking clock, there's a series of what sounds like radio or TV broadcasts in a foreign language. Though I can't figure out, are the broadcasts spoken in Spanish, or are they spoken in Russian?
Ryan from Raleigh, NcJust wanted to point out something I thought was kind of cool. Towards the very end of the song, if you listen carefully, you might hear what sounds like a hammer striking steel in rhythm to the beat. Possibly meant to be the hammer from the old hammer and sickle on the Soviet flag? Sting is truly a great artist.
Mike from Fort Worth, TxOf course Sting knew Russians loved their children. "We share the same biology, regardless of ideology." Of course he gets digs into both Krushchev and Reagan. And as is stated, the melody is strictly a Russian's: Segei Prokofiev (is the correct spelling.)
Eric from Cincinnati, OhI heard an interview where a member of Sting's former band, The Police, said the title came out of a debate that he and Sting had been having. The speaker (I didn't catch which band member) was a "hawk" compared to the "dove" Sting, and argued that nuclear weapons were necessary for the West to be able to deter the Russian threat. Sting couldn't think of a good response, and went home that night sulking; but the next day, he came back with the insightful response, "What if the Russians love their children, too?" (...because if they do, they are as scared as we are of nuclear war, and have as much reason to want to disarm).
Richard from Newport, Isle Of Wight, EnglandAt the risk of sounding pedantic, I don't think Sting was ASKING whether the Russians love their children too, he was STATING that they clearly do love their children, hence showing that Russians are humans just like us (Westenrers), and how can we justify waging war, albeit a cold one, against them?
Alan from Singapore, SingaporeA very thought provoking song. In the song, one can also hear the ticking of either a pocket watch or wristwatch which seems to say that as far as nuclear was was concerned, time was running out if hostilities continued in the Cold War