Patriotic, Kremlin-backed pop music isn’t something new for modern Russia, where Mr. Putin has ruled for almost 23 years and where performers favored by the government were always at least moderately nationalistic or militaristic.
But Shaman is different. He belongs to the freer culture of independent pop music, which thrived despite increasing censorship until February 2022, when the invasion of Ukraine began. It exists today in a diminished form, and while he has not started a wave of young overtly patriotic followers, he is pulling independent music in Russia closer to the Kremlin.
His success prompted some of his rivals from the old guard, already close to the Kremlin, to reshape their work to stay in favor. Oleg Gazmanov, 71, re-recorded one of his hits, “Russian Soldiers,” about the glory of Russian fighters, with a modern video that features the same 1980s glam rock camp Shaman uses in his own video. Another longtime star, Dima Bilan, released his own nationalist song, “Gladiator,” with an introduction that sounds far-right themes.
Mr. Dronov’s song “Vstanem” was released on Feb. 23, 2022, on the eve of the invasion. He wrote it for Defender of the Fatherland Day, a Russian version of Veterans Day, and in an interview last year with Russia-1, the country’s main state-controlled news channel, said he believed it “was dictated to me from above.”
The events of the following months ensured that it became a hit with patriotic hard-liners and ordinary Russians alike. In June, it became the first song ever played in its entirety on “News of the Week,” a program led by Russia’s chief propagandist, Dmitry Kiselyov.
The song, which celebrates fallen soldiers, has become a soundtrack to the current war, and its wide reach on social media is evidence of its importance to the Kremlin’s wartime communication strategy.