Friday, July 2, 2010

"Bozhe, Tsarya Khrani" (God Save the Czar)

In 1833, the Russian czar Nicolas I decided to have a native Russian anthem composed, instead of using that of Great Britian, which had been the national anthem (with different words) to that point. He tasked his friend and composer Alexey Lvov with the duty. Lvov, anxious by the importance of the task was at first unable to compose anything. However, one evening the melody came to him and was able to compose it within a few minutes. He then went to the poet Vasily Zhukovsky who wrote lyrics, and gave it the title "A Prayer of the Russian People". The czar was impressed, and it became the official national anthem under the title "God Save the Czar" on December 25, 1833. It was in use until 1917, when a transitory government was formed, upon the abdication of the last Czars.

The anthem, as well as the French "La Marseillaise" can also be heard near the end of Tchaikovsky's famous work "The 1812 Overture", which is a chronicle of the battle of that year between France and Russia. (Interestingly, neither of these anthems were the national anthems of these countries in 1812 (in fact, neither nation had an official anthem that year), but they were each country's respective anthem in 1882, the year the overture was composed.) Currently, it is also a common hymn used in Russian Orthodox church services, at least in immigrant communities in Australia from the Russian royalist diaspora.

1. Bozhe, Carja hrani!
Sil'nyj, derzhavnyj,
Carstvuj na slavu, na slavu nam!
Carstvuj na strah vragam,
Car' pravoslavnyj!
Bozhe, Carja, Carja hrani!

2. Bozhe, Carja hrani!
Slavnomu dolgi dni
Daj na zemli! Daj na zemli!
Gordyh smiritelju,
Slabyh hranitelju,
Vseh uteshitelju — vsjo nisposhli!

3. Pervoderzhavnuju
Rus' pravoslavnuju,
Bozhe, hrani! Bozhe, hrani!
Carstvo ej strojnoe,
V sile spokojnoe!
Vse zh nedostojnoe proch' otzheni!

4. Voinstvo brannoe,
Slavoj izbrannoe,
Bozhe, hrani! Bozhe, hrani!
Chesti spasiteljam,
Mirotvoriteljam dolgie dni!

5. Mirnyh voitelej,
Pravdy bljustitelej
Bozhe, hrani! Bozhe, hrani!
Zhizn' ih primernuju
Doblestjam vernuju vospomjani!

6. O, Providenie!
Nam nisposhli! Nam nisposhli!
K blagu stremlenie,
V schast'e smirenie,
V skorbi terpenie daj na zemli!

7. Bud' nam zastupnikom,
Vernym soputnikom
Nas provozhaj! Nas provozhaj!
Zhizn' podnebesnaja,
Serdcu izvestnaja, serdcu sijaj!

The postcard above features the score and lyrics of the national anthem "God Save the Czar" printed in Paris in 1916. (click postcard to enlarge)