Russia's Latest Propaganda Video: the TikTok Sea Shanty. With Fake Nurses.

The video sees dancers dressed as nurses forming a "Z" shape and singing a bland message of Russian patriotism as the war intensifies in the east of Ukraine.
Simon Childs
London, GB
A Russian nationalist version of the Wellerman Song. ​Screengrab: Twitter
The video sees dancers dressed as nurses forming a "Z" shape and singing a bland message of Russian patriotism as the war intensifies in the east of Ukraine.

Russian-backed separatists have recorded a propaganda version of “The Wellerman Song” the “sea shanty” that went viral on TikTok last year.

The video shows women dressed as First World War nurses doing a coordinated dance routine in front of a projection of the flag of the Luhansk People’s Republic.

The Luhansk People’s Republic is a breakaway state in the east of Ukraine. The pro-Russian rebel republic is likely to assume more importance as the second phase of the war has begun. Russian forces have pulled away from Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and are now focussing their attentions on the east of the country, as Vladimir Putin hopes to be able to declare some sort of victory. On Monday Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy and senior officials said that the “Battle of Donbas” had begun.

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The dancers stand in formation to make the shape of the letter “Z” and spell the letter with arm movements - a reference to the symbol that Russia has painted on its tanks during the war, and many Russians have adopted to show their support for the assault.

Two women sing to the tune of “The Wellerman Song”, the 19th century New Zealand whaler song that went viral in 2021 after Scottish postman Nathan Evans shared a version on TikTok. However the lyrics are adapted to convey a message of bland Russian patriotism. Lyrics reference Russia’s strong “spirit”, its “bountiful nature” and “wide spaces”. Where Evans sings “blow my bully boys blow”, the Russian version simply repeats the word “Russia”.

Social media users have pointed out the irony of a pro-Russian sea-shanty after the Moskva, the flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet, was sunk by Ukrainian missile strikes. The downing of the ship was a major humiliation for Moscow, which insists publicly that the vessel sunk after ammunition went off in the boat because of a fire.  

The “Z” symbol which was spotted on Russian military vehicles at the start of the invasion, has become a symbol of support for the war in Russia. Russian athletes have worn the symbol in competitions and Russian authorities have organised flashmobs where people gather wearing the symbol on t-shirts to show support for the war.