Monday, August 2, 2010

Hymn of the Soviet Union (1944-1992)

From 1944 until its break-up in 1992, the Soviet Union adopted a new anthem "Gimn Sovetskogo Soyuza" (Hymn of the Soviet Union). It has since been readopted as the official anthem of Russia, but with new words to reflect its new democratic nature.

In 1936 Stalin decided a change in national anthem was needed, believing the lyrics of the "Internationale" spoke of work that was yet to be done by the workers of the world; Stalin, however, believed that the worker's ultimate goal has been achieved. (Also that "The Internationale" was written by non-Russians was an issue for him.) This task was delayed by the outbreak of World War II, however, during the heat of the war in 1942, money was set aside to create a new anthem. On June, 18, 1943 the deputy prime minister of the USSR Marshal Kliment Voroshilov and Party's Secretary Alexander Shcherbakov for about two hours had been instructing about 20 soviet poets and composers what anthem they should create: “Its lyrics must live decades at least, and maybe, and even for sure, hundreds years. Its music must be easy to understand, expressive, plain for Russians as well as for Kalmyks. People will sing in both in joy and in misfortune."

Two war reporters Captain Sergey Vladimirovich Mikhalkov (also a popular children's author) and Major Gabriel Ureklyan (being an Armenian he used the name “El-Reghistan”) were not invited to visit Voroshiliv’s lecture about future anthem. One night El-Reghistan in his sleep saw himself with his friend Sergey Mikhalkov writing these words of anthem: “The noble union of free peoples / Great Russia has welded for ever!” In early morning he came in a great hurry to Sergey and they finished the first stanza together.

On September, 20 they were called into the Kremlin. Then the text was corrected by Stalin (who has written poetry in his youth). The fist variant of text, officially adopted on September 26, had only two stanzas and a refrain, different from the one that was eventually approved for use. But after the meeting with Foreign Ministers of the countries of the Anti-Hitler coalition in Mo scow, at night on September 27 Stalin by phone asked Mikhalkov to write the third, “militant” stanza. After the text was ready work was begun on the music. Mikhalkov and Reghistan considered that the music must be created by the composers S.S. Prokofiev and D.D. Shostakovich. But, on November 4 Stalin again telephoned to Mikhalkov and told him to write new “reserve” refrain in Alexandr Alexandrov's hymn meter: “Keep present stanzas and in new chorus emphasize that our country is soviet and socialist”. Alexandrov's melody was already in use as the anthem of the Bolshevik party, and Stalin perhaps had in mind to use this melody as the anthem, holding the contest so that lyrics could be written that matched the tune.

Some of the failed entrants of the competition went on to write anthems of the various republics, like Tikhon Khrennikov (whose entry became the anthem of the Russian region of Omsk, with new lyrics); Boris Alexandrov (son of the winning composer), whose entry became the anthem of the Transdneiester Republic; Pavel Tychina, who later wrote the lyrics for the Ukrainian SSR anthem; Samed Vurgun, who later wrote the Azerbaijan SSR anthem lyrics; and the composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who was advised by Stalin to collaborate with Aram Khachaturyan (another failed entrant, and the composer of the Armenia SSR anthem), their joint venture was "The Song of the Red Army".

Also, from the period of 1944-1955, most Soviet republics adopted their own anthems (links are below). Only Russia didn’t get its own anthem, however party authorities chose the lyrics of Stepan Shchipachev as the basis for further work and the famous composer Dmitri Shostakovich wrote music “Hymn of the RSFSR”, yet it was never adopted. After the death of Stalin in 1953 (as his name appeared in the lyrics of the anthem at the time), it was proposed to create a new anthem for the nation, but this never came about. Instead, it was performed without words until 1976, when, before a hockey matchup between the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia in Montreal, Canada, the local anthem singer in Montreal, Roger Doucet, found a copy of the old lyrics and requested the Russian Department at the Université de Montréal "fix them up" so he would have lyrics to sing. The Soviet government officially adopted Doucet's words (without recognition to Doucet or the Université de Montréal) in 1977, which were used until the Soviet Union ceased to exist in the early 1990s.

A unique property of the Soviet anthem is how many languages there are official versions of. It was the wish of the government to have the lyrics known not only all across the USSR, where dozens of different languages are spoken, but all across the world.

Hymn of Imperial Russia click here and click here (composer)
Patriotic Song of Russia click here
Hymn of the Russian Federation click here

The postcard above shows the composer of the Hymn of the Soviet Union, Alexandr Vasilievich Alexandrov. Below is Sergey Vladimirovich Mikhalkov, the lyricist.