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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spies Give Themselves the Gift of Music

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Perhaps anticipating that gifts and well-wishes might be in short supply as Russia's secret police celebrate their 80th anniversary on Wednesday, the Foreign Intelligence Service has come up with a very special present to give itself.

"Their Uneasy Job Is Called Spying," a 22-song compilation of songs near and dear to the hearts of Russia's spies, has a little bit of everything: nostalgia, patriotism and love.

The songs, with titles like "Hope," "Completing a Task" and "Here Goes Your Friend Off on a Mission," were chosen — and occasionally written and performed — by intelligence service officials, and will be distributed on CD and audiocassette to intelligence veterans in honor of the 80-year jubilee.

But civilian music lovers hoping to hear what professional spies are listening to these days will find themselves left out in the cold. The collection, which boasts professional recording standards and the occasional musical luminary, is for intelligence ears only.

"It's a purely private thing that is not subject for mass distribution," said Boris Labusov, chief of the SVR's press bureau.

Maybe "Spy's Motto," the first song on the compilation — whose cover photograph features a man from the neck down, dressed in a discreet dark suit and sporting the sword-and-shield emblem first made famous by the KGB — puts it better: "It's that kind of job … or, to put it more correctly, it's that kind of fate."

Despite the profession's secretive nature, Labusov said he was surprised how many Russian songs about spies there were to choose from — so many, in fact, that the CD couldn't hold them all.

"It's that kind of job, you know," he echoed, smiling slyly.

Not surprisingly, all of the tunes — from "A Replacement" to "Intelligence, Motherland and Honor" — are written with love for Russia.

"I have seen plenty of countries, as I walked on with a rifle in hand, but there wasn't a greater sadness than to live apart from you," goes "Birds of Passage Fly," performed by singer and State Duma Deputy Iosif Kobzon.

When asked which song on the disc was the favorite of Russia's most famous former spy, President Vladimir Putin, Labusov chuckled and said: "I don't know."

Maybe it's "Moments" by Robert Rozhdestvensky and Mikael Tariverdiyev, the theme from "Seventeen Moments of Spring," the blockbuster serial about a Soviet spy working under cover in Nazi Germany.

"Moments" is one of the few songs on the CD written by a professional songwriter.

Others were written by intelligence workers themselves, like "War" by Yury Shurchukov, who also performs the song.

Discretion is clearly an issue, even in more whimsical moments. While the music for the CD's fifth track, "Profession: Espionage," is credited to a certain V. Prokhorenko, the lyricist responsible for lines like "We rarely had cozy homes and silence/You and I share one fate, one job: espionage" is listed as "unknown."

"Naturally, spies can't always announce that they are foreign intelligence service officers," Labusov said. "But when the time comes for them to sing a little, they choose the songs that have to do with their life's work."

Labusov said the main criteria in choosing the collection was "of course, primarily, the artistic side."

"There are some songs that people love to listen to when they gather around a campfire with a guitar — but if these songs were to be played back to someone who had nothing to do with this lifestyle, this person would simply shrug," Labusov said.

All the songs on the CD, even those written and sung by professional spies, were arranged and perfected until they met the highest possible performance standards, he added.

"What if an intelligence veteran plays it at home, and he has children, and his children have friends who overhear it?" he said by way of explanation.

Neither Labusov nor officials at the Russian Information Center, the state information agency participating in the compilation project, were ready to blow their cover and say how many copies of the spy-song CDs and tapes they released.

The Russian Information Center told Interfax only that the edition is "limited."