By Olga Shafran
Mari Govori is the pseudonym of Maria Chistyakova, a YouTuber, vlogger, and activist from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. If you haven’t heard of her yet, remember her name because she is definitely a rising star. I discovered Maria when a friend shared her video parody of the hit song “Despacito.” That video has gone viral and currently has over 2.5 million hits. The lyrics – brave and unapologetic – are written by Maria and satirize the daily struggles of life in Putin’s Russia. Maria sings and acts in the video and has a beautiful singing voice.
Over the last few days I’ve been exploring more of Mari Govori’s work. Some of it is original songs, lyrics and music written and performed by Maria, such as this open letter to Elon Musk. Others are re-makes of famous songs with funny lyrics that are often political. Not every video is musical. Sometimes Mari shares her views on current events, such as #metoo, rape culture, and friend zones, or comments on the Russian sham of an election, or expresses her support for Navalny. Sometimes I disagreed with Maria’s views, but even then I thought her views demonstrated deep thinking and were very eloquently expressed.
If you want to learn more about Maria, here is an interview she gave to another Russian blog nearly a year ago. I also reached out to Maria on behalf of Ironed Curtains and asked her a few questions, which she graciously answered. Here they are, translated into English.
Ironed Curtains: How did you get started as a YouTuber?
Mari Govori: I didn’t exactly have a plan to become a YouTuber, that’s not the right expression. I just always knew that sooner or later that is what I will do. I didn’t just realize it one day, rather I never doubted it. There are some people who, when you look at them, you just know they’re a blogger. And it doesn’t matter if they used to be one, or will become one in the future and don’t even know it yet.
Do you write your own lyrics?
I write my own lyrics and music too, if it’s not a parody.
You very bravely criticize Putin. Are you afraid? How do people in Russia react to it?
It is scary to criticize Putin, but it is even scarier to live in Putin’s Russia. People react positively, except my grandparents who react negatively. The fear is strongly ingrained in them. I think the reaction is the same from people as from the government, but I’m talking about Nizhny Novgorod and the capitals [Moscow and St Petersburg]. In smaller cities, the provinces, things are different. Over there people really love Putin. The worse your life, the more you love Putin. Is that a paradox? Yes. But that’s the beauty of our homeland.
After the election of Trump I’ve been noticing some ideological differences between the generation of immigrants who came here as adults and their children who grew up and received their education in the US. Does a similar generational divide exist in Russia?
We do have a similar divide. It seems in the US and abroad in general there are many Russian patriots, which I think is pretty funny. Of course it is easier to love your country from abroad.
Is there anything you want to say to Russian-speaking Americans?
I can only recommend not giving up and continuing to let the world know that you exist.
You can follow Mari Govori on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, or Telegram. If you don’t speak Russian, translations of some of her most popular works can be found here. Finally, if you want to support Maria and the courageous and important work she is doing, or if you simply think that her videos are fun to watch, consider donating.