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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 February 2005, 13:59 GMT
Pianist punished for prison song
Russian Duma
Chopin 'was not conducive to Russian MPs' digestion'
The Russian parliament's lower chamber, the Duma, has barred a pianist from performing in the canteen after she played a tune with criminal undertones.

Pianist Olga Skiba was initially hired to delight MPs with the sounds of Mozart and Chopin - but was flooded with requests for popular melodies.

She was suspended for three weeks after she played the 80-year-old tune Murka.

It tells a story of a gangster killing his girlfriend for being an undercover agent of the Bolshevik secret police.

Murka is considered a classic example of the prison chanson-style which originated in Odessa in the 1920s.

The style came into fashion again after the collapse of the USSR.


Prison chanson is still immensely popular, and there is even the countrywide Chanson-FM radio station entirely dedicated to it. But it seldom appears on other radio stations or television.

Many Russian intellectuals have expressed alarm about the spread of the gangster culture.

How are you, Murka? How are you, darling?
Nice meeting you, but, well, goodbye!
Never fix your life's mess doing dirty business,
Or my knife will shred you like a pie

Murka couplet, in Yevgeny Moskovets' comic translation

Russian Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper says Ms Skiba was punished after a complaint voiced by nationalist MP Andrei Savelyev at the chamber's session.

The pianist is said to have explained that Chopin was not conducive to MPs' digestion, so she had given in to their requests to play music from classic Soviet and Hollywood films, such as The Godfather.

She said that she played Murka "only once or twice" for the New Year celebrations.

The newspaper suggests that such issues emerge in the Duma because "MPs have nothing to do when all laws are dictated by the presidential administration".

"Maybe they should invite acrobats and clowns, or conduct gladiator fights? However, Roman senators' obsession about entertainment ended in a collapse of a great empire," Komsomolskaya Pravda says.

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