Mikhael Krug

Mikhail Krug / Михаил Круг

Published: August 28, 2016

Mikhail Krug (Михаил Круг; his real last name is Borobyov, Боробьёв) was a Russian singer-songwriter and musician, one of the most famous and highly regarded in the genre of shanson, or “criminal music” (referring usually to the subject matter). He was also a bard. He died in 2002, at the age of 40.

Krug grew up in Kalinin (now Tver’), where he studied the accordion in school. He became a huge fan of Vladimir Vysotsky when he was young, and as a result of this inspiration started playing the guitar and writing poetry in the late 1970s. His artistic career didn’t start until 1987, though, after he had finished his army service and worked as a driver for many years. At that point, he entered a contest for singer-songwriters and won with his song “About Afghanistan” (“Про Афганистан”). He devoted himself more thoroughly to his songwriting after this win, and also adopted his pseudonym, Krug. “Krug” means “circle” in Russian and is also a word often used to refer to one’s close friends and relatives, or, in the criminal world, to one’s close associates. He began unofficially releasing albums soon after, his first The Streets of Tver’ (Тверские улитцы) in 1989 followed soon by a second, Katya (Катя), the next year, and then several more, all of which circulated in pirated copies with his approbation.

His first official album, Scoundrel Lemon (Жиган-Лимон), appeared in 1994. The album, which consisted of shanson as well as lyrical and poetic songs, is considered the turning point in his career. A documentary was made about him the next year that aired on Russian TV, and in the next few years he won several awards and contests for Russian shanson. In the vague overall tradition of Russian bards, Krug also participated in political activities, though not in the same way as Soviet-era bards had. He was involved in the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. Krug himself was known for being opposed to feminism, LGBT rights, and communism.

Krug was killed in 2002 during a home invasion. Krug’s third wife, Irina, began performing his repertoire after his death.

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“Tattoo Artist” (“Кольщик”), from the 1994 album Scoundrel Lemon (Жиган-Лимон):

Lyrics for “Кольщик”:

Кольщик наколи мне купола,
Рядом чидотворный крест с иконами,
Чтоб играли там колокола
С переливами и перезвонами.

Наколи мне домик у ручья,
Пусть течет по-воле струйкой тонкою.
Чтобы от него портной судья
Не отгородил меня решеткою.

Нарисуй алеющий закат.
Розу за колючей ржавой проволкой.
Строчку Мама, я не виноват!
Напиши, и пусть стереть попробуют.

Если места хватит – нарисуй
Лодку, с парусами ветром полными.

Уплыву, волки, вот вам…
Чтобы навсегда меня запомнили.

И легло на душу, как покой.
Встретить мать – одно мое желание.
Крест коли, чтоб я забрал с собой
Избавление, но не покаяние.

Не осуждай меня мама, я ведь только тем и жил,
Что знал – ты меня ждешь; я знаю, ты плачешь
вечерами, и видишь сны где я совсем еще маленький,
подкрадываюсь к тебе, и закрываю твои глаза ладошками;
ты нарочно говоришь:отец?,Татьянка?, я смеюсь:
нет, нет, не угадала; отцу с Танюхой привет; деньги
в конверте не шли – суки все вынут, но я ж назло им
вернусь, потому что ты меня ждешь.


“Magadan” (“Магадан”), from the 2002 album Initiation (Посвящение):

Lyrics for “Magadan”:

Ветер туман порвал,
Солнце сквозь щели туч
Здравствуй, мой Магадан,
Здравствуй, весенний луч.
Возле пивной мужик
Кружку поднес к губам,
И на руке возник
С чайками Магадан.

Магадан – значит, опять домой,
В этот волшебный сон,
Магадан – сон, где короткой весной
Я, как пацан, влюблен.

Сопки угрюмо спят,
Море – свинцовый цвет.
На берегу стоят
Баржи колымских лет.
Мне бы из бухты той
С чайками улететь.
Горькой всплакнуть слезой
И на прощанье спеть…

Магадан – значит, опять домой,
В этот волшебный сон,
Магадан – сон, где короткой весной
Я, как пацан, влюблен.


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About the author

Julie Hersh

Julie studied Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk and before that, Bishkek, with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar

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