Russian State TV’s New Year Broadcast Was Dystopian As Hell

From jokes about the European energy crisis to Ukrainian dance parodies, this glitzy programme gave a glimpse into Vladimir Putin's mindset for 2023.

As Moscow’s missiles rained down on Ukraine, glittering ticker tape fell on Russian celebrities as they ushered in the new year with an all-singing, all-dancing wartime television special. 

Russian state TV screened an almost four-hour-long show welcoming in 2023, mixing jokes about the invasion with upbeat pop songs on New Year’s Eve. Several clips of the programme have gone viral online, including jokes about Europe freezing and crude parodies of Ukrainian dancers.


But the short videos only scratch the surface of the bizarre event, which saw Kremlin propagandists laugh and dance alongside actors, pop stars and military officers. 

Much of Ukraine has been without power after Russian attacks on energy infrastructure, but every light in the Moscow studio was blazing for the new year celebrations.

Here are the key moments of the unnerving show.

Europe is freezing – please applaud

Comedian Yevgeny Petrosyan claimed that the West had tried to “destroy” the Russian government but that, “like it or not, Russia is enlarging”, in what even he admitted was an “unusual” New Year toast.

To loud laughter and applause from the audience, he continued: “What do Ukrainian borsch, French onion soup and German sausages all have in common? To make them, you need Russian gas!

“In the West, they’ve just opened a museum of hot water and heating.”

He also made a gag about a man who saved a young girl from a crocodile at a London zoo. The girl’s sobbing mother thanks him and tells him he has behaved like a true Englishman. “He replies: ‘Actually, I’m Russian’. And the next day, all the English newspapers come out with the headline: ‘Drunk Russian tourist steals lunch from crocodile’.”


The monologue was followed by a performance of 1980s hit “Argo” by a group of male singers called Bravo Metekhi.

Brave, true Russian state TV

At intervals throughout the evening, war correspondents from Russian state television sat down with people involved in the conflict to thank them for their service, and ask for their thoughts on the coming year.

Hosts introduced the correspondents as people “of a truly heroic profession, thanks to whom we receive the most reliable information”. Russian state media has spread disinformation throughout the war, repeatedly claiming that Ukraine has staged war crimes and that the Ukrainian army is made up of neo-Nazis.

One young man interviewed during such a segment told the audience: “I hope your dreams are fulfilled like the dreams of the people of the Donbas to reunite with Russia”. 

Don’t mention Ukraine

Despite the conflict looming large over the musical extravaganza, the word “Ukraine” was barely mentioned, with one presenter repeatedly referring instead to “Russia’s southern lands.”

The only mention of the country’s culture came with a version of the Ukrainian song “Chervona Ruta,” or Red Flower. Backing dancers performed high kicks in porkpie hats decorated with sunflowers, a symbol of Ukraine.


It’s not all bad news (but it mainly is)

There was some acknowledgement in the programme that 2022 had been a difficult year for Russia, and toasts were frequently made to those “defending” the country on the front. One host hoped that 2023 would be a year of “fewer sad goodbyes and more joyful meetings,” perhaps in reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s large-scale military mobilisation last September.

But elsewhere, the tone was upbeat. The winner of Russia’s “Teacher of the Year” competition hoped that 2023 would be a time of “new discoveries and surprising emotions.”

The show’s hosts meanwhile commented on the “romantic” mood of the evening, appealing to lovers: “Announce your love right now, on this new year night! Who knows, maybe these very words will fill your life with new meaning.”

What a difference a decade makes

A version of the New Year’s Eve show, known as “Little Blue New Year Light”, has been running since 1962, the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the US and Russia to the brink of nuclear war. 

The basic formula of songs and well-wishes has remained the same over the years, but the politics has shifted wildly, perhaps no better illustrated than a clip from 2013 that features a performance by a comedian called Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 


This year, Zelenskyy made a new year address to Ukraine as its wartime leader, standing sombre against a dark background as he listed Russian atrocities.

“This is the year when Ukraine changed the world,” he said.