This week, a video of two Ukrainian soldiers in the trenches singing a version of the anti-fascist World War II Italian partisan anthem “Bella ciao” was widely shared on social media. This wasn’t the first time the video has made the rounds, however, as it was first uploaded in July.
The video showed two young women serving in the Ukrainian army singing the folk song while near the front lines. Some users were quick to suggest that the performance was “staged,” given their polished looks and ability to sing. Yet even though it was entirely staged, it is indeed the message of resistance that has resonated with viewers, and the video has already racked up nearly 400,000 views since it was re-posted on Tuesday.
This is far from the first time that the 19th century Italian protest folk song has circulated on the various social platforms.
Originally sung in opposition to the harsh working conditions in the rice fields of northern Italy, “Bella ciao” later became the anthem of the Italian resistance movement which opposed fascism and occupation. German during World War II.
It also caught the attention of the general public in the years that followed, as it was recorded in many languages and performed by folk musicians, world music artists, punk rock bands and bands. electronic dance.
Today, versions of “Bella ciao” continue to be sung as a hymn of resistance and freedom. The air had attracted international attention as it was used by some to protest against Italian lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic.
An air of protest in Iran
It’s not just in Ukraine that the old folk tune has been performed to draw attention to a cause. Another video recording of the song was also widely shared on social media this week. It featured two Iranian women singing in Farsi in response to the Islamic Republic’s recent crackdown on protests and demonstrations that began earlier this month following the death of Iranian woman Masha Amini in police custody.
“Iranian women – no hijab – sing the Farsi version of Bella Ciao, the anti-fascist anthem of the Italian resistance during WWII,” tweeted CNN contributor Frida Ghitis (@FridaGhitis).
This video has been viewed almost 300,000 times, highlighting how a simple peasant tune has been transformed into a timeless and almost universal anthem of resistance.
Freedom, not nationalism: song of resistance in Ukraine
The song has become a de facto resistance anthem in Ukraine. The first locally recorded version appeared online just days after Russia launched its unprovoked and unwarranted invasion in February. Ukrainian folk singer Khrystyna Ivanivna Soloviy shared her take on folk song via her Instagram account, and it quickly surpassed one million views.
“My version of the popular Italian song is dedicated to our heroes, the armed forces and to all who are now fighting for their homeland,” Soloviy wrote in his post.
What’s particularly notable about Ukrainians’ use of “Bella ciao” is that it’s not the least bit patriotic, or even a nationalist song. Rather, it is about overcoming oppression.
“Americans usually think of ‘nationalism’ in reference to ‘National Socialism,'” said Dr. Matthew Schmidt, associate professor of national security and political science at the University of New Haven.
“But it’s more accurate to use the term ‘patriotism’ for what we see in Ukraine,” Schmidt explained. “Nationalism is about ethnic purity, while Ukrainians understand Ukraine as including Ukrainian, Russian, Polish and other ethnicities. Ukraine is a multi-ethnic state. What unites them is what these sings soldiers: the freedom of a fascist, vision of who they should be.”