Meaning of Kino – Kukushka & Song Story

“Cuckoo” Viktor Tsoi wrote shortly before his tragic death, and it was already published posthumously on the “Black Album”. This song made a huge impression not only on Tsoi’s fans, but also on other musicians who recorded their own versions of Kukushka. Each performer brought something new to the understanding of the song, but what is its original meaning? Let’s turn to line-by-line analysis to understand it.

How many songs still unwritten, tell me, Kukushka, sing– from the very first lines, the key symbol of the song appears – Kukushka. Of course, this is not just a bird, it is a metaphor for fate, fate, some doom. Throughout the song, Tsoi refers to this silent “interlocutor” – Kukushka. Let’s take this image a little deeper. According to legend, if you ask a Cuckoo the question: “How long do I have left to live?”, The bird will crow as many times as you have allotted years. But Tsoi has a different calculation of time: not in years, but in songs. Here, his work comes to the fore, and not everyday life. It is not so important for him how many more years he will have to trample this earth, he wants to know what new he can still write and sing. And, mind you, it is assumed that Cuckoo will also answer with a song – “sing”, although we all know that Cuckoo of this bird is a little like a song.

The meaning of the song Zemfira - Cuckoo

Viktor Tsoi performs the song Kukushka

Should I live in the city or in settlements, lie like a stone or burn like a star – these dichotomous images reveal the aspirations of the lyrical hero. The city here symbolizes belonging to the majority, to the townsfolk. Vyselki is a small settlement, the inhabitants of which, as it were, separated from another settlement. It seems to me that settlements here symbolize a small community of like-minded people or even a solitary, hermit life, which is opposed to a big bustling city (remember another song by Tsoi – “Anthill”).

What our hero chooses between the perspective of “lie down like a stone” and “burn like a star” is also understandable, but note that both of these images are associated with death. A lying stone, under which, as you know, water does not flow, is not only a metaphor for philistinism, but also a symbol of death, both moral and physical. To burn as a star, to illuminate the lives of other people, is a more interesting possibility, but burning necessarily implies combustion, which means death again. Recall in “A Star Called the Sun”:

And is able to reach the stars,Not considering that this is a dream,And fall, scorched by a starNamed the Sun.

By the way, the sun in Kukushka also plays an important role. My sun, look at me – my palm has turned into a fist, and if there is gunpowder, give me fire, like this. Here, the appeal to the sun can be interpreted in many different ways – it can be both addressing a specific person, and to an intangible entity, such as happiness or good luck. I think the latter is closer to the truth, especially if we take into account the many-sided image of the Sun in Tsoi’s songs. Luck turned away from the hero, left him, and he asks her to “look” in his direction, to illuminate with his rays. In other words, he asks the fate-cuckoo to be more favorable to him and give him the opportunity to fight: “if there is gunpowder, give me fire.”

The meaning of the song Polina Gagarina - Cuckoo

Viktor Tsoi performs the song Kukushka

The image of a palm turned into a fist is no less symbolic. An open hand, turned palm up, at all times meant an offer of peace, showed that a person was unarmed and was not going to attack. An open palm is a sign of friendship, kindness, consent. But the hero says that his palm “turned into a fist” – that’s right, it did not clench into a fist, but forever turned into it. What the fist means, I think, no need to explain. No more offer of peace, no more disarmament. The hero took a hostile position in relation to the world around him.

Realizing his important role as a creator who must lead the next generations, Tsoi asks the fate-cuckoo a question:  Who will follow the lone trail? Strong and courageous heads laid down in the field, in battle. Again the image of war, battle, but with whom is this battle? I think that here the opposing side is everyday life, the severity of everyday conformist life, and also, possibly, pressure from the authorities. Few people remained in bright memory, in a sober mind and with a firm hand in the ranks – our hero feels like the same warrior who was left alone in the field. And he doubts that someone will want to voluntarily repeat his lonely feat, and therefore wonders if all his “unwritten songs” are needed or do they make no sense? But it remains behind the line, behind the scenes.

Tsoi performs "Cuckoo"

Viktor Tsoi performs the song Kukushka

Where are you now, free will, with whom are you now meeting the gentle dawn, answer – for the third time the hero asks a question not to a specific person, but to an abstract entity. First it was Destiny (Kukushka), then Happiness (the sun), and now it is Will. At first glance, one might think that such a question can be addressed to a woman, but I think that the words “with whom are you now meeting the gentle dawn” literally means the age-old question “who in Russia lives well?”. If I don’t feel free now, if I’m not free, then who will ? That’s what the lyrical hero wants to know.

And he really doesn’t feel free:  It’s good with you, but it’s bad without you, your head and shoulders are patient under the whip. Such is the price of an unequal struggle with the outside world, with a system in which there is no one to support a lone warrior. But note that the head and shoulders are called “patient”, this clearly indicates fatigue, a desire to stop the battle. Can this be done by a man whose palms have already turned into fists from this state of constant war in which he is? We will no longer know the answer, because by the will of fate, Kukushka, Viktor Tsoi completed his life, and we can only interpret the meaning of the song Kukushka, based only on our own guesses.

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