With Peter the Great, Russian empire, adopted the English "God Save the
King." By the early 19th century, it often competed with the native Russian
"Glory" by Dmitry
Bortiansky. In 1833, the competition for the new anthem
was won by a violinist and composer Prince A.F. Lvov (1798-1870), and his
music, along with the text by Vasily Zhukovsky, court poet and Pushkin's
friend, served until 1917 (Lvov's
Bozhe, tsaria khrani).
The runners-up were Mikhail
"Glory" chorus from the conclusion of his opera Life for the Tsar
and what came to be known as his "Patriotic Song."
When the Russian autocracy collapsed in February 1917, the old "Bozhe,
tsaria khrani" was replaced by the
French Marseillaise, the hymn of the
French revolution, but in a very free Russian translation.
In a way, this transition was envisioned, if in reverse, in Tchaikovsky's
famous 1812 Overture in which La Marseillaise theme is
supplanted by "Bozhe, tsaria khrani."
The more official
but less performed was the national anthem composed by Alksandr Gretchaninov.
After the October revolution and all the way up to 1944, the official
anthem of Soviet Russia and, later, the Soviet Union was
The International, an emblem of the Soviet Union's commitment to
internationalism and world proletarian revolution, notwithstanding the fact
of the 1938 Hymn of the Bolshevik
Party (A.V. Aleksandrov's music to the words by V.
Lebedev-Kumach), which was to become the foundation of the 1944 Stalinist
Hymn of the Soviet Union.
In the course of WWII, when the ideological creed of the world revolution
was replaced by the ideology of Russian nationalism, more consonant with the
war effort, a new Soviet anthem was called for (the State Committee on the
Anthem, however, had predated WWII; its first chairman was Maxim Litvinov,
appointed to the post by Stalin after being sacked as Foreign Minister in
1938 in anticipation of an alliance with Nazi Germany). It was finally
produced by A.V. Aleksandrov. The lyrics were authored by S. Mikhalkov and
G.G. El-Registan (edited by Stalin himself). The music of this anthem, as
well as the text, were an adaptation of the 1938
Hymn of the Bolsheviks. As
the Soviet national Anthem, it was first publicly performed on 1/1/1944 and
officially adopted on 3/15/1944).
After Stalin's death and the de-Stalinization under Khrushchev, the
anthem continued to function in its former capacity but because of
the now offensive lyrics, it became a "song sans paroles."
In 1977, during the peak of the Leonid Brezhnev era, the lyrics were
revised (minor emendations to remove the mention of Stalin), and anthem
could be sung once again (click
here for the 1977 version, performed by the Red Army Chorus).
After the collapse of communism, under Boris Yeltsin, the music of
Patriotic Song was declared the national anthem by Presidential
decree; the anthem, however, continued to exist in a constitutional limbo:
with the legislature dominated by the old communist, who deeply despised the
symbols of post-communist Russia and pined for the restoration of the old
order, Yeltsin never submitted the anthem for their approval.
The issue was revived in the early months of Vladimir Putin's presidency.
Defeated four times in national elections, communist were no longer a
threatening political force, but they could still derail Putin's domestic
agenda that required consolidation of Russian society. With his powerful
mandate in hand, Putin was anxious to proceed with his plans and put an end
to the confrontational politics of the Yeltsin era. The debates and heated
passions surrounding the new national symbols of Russia gave him the
opportunity to effect reconciliation in one broad swoop. Instead of choosing
among various factional versions, he pushed for the adoption of a hybrid
set, including some of the sacred Soviet symbols. On December 8, 2000, after
much debate and acrimony over competing versions of the "symbolism
legislation," the State Duma adopted the music of the old Soviet anthem with
the modified text by Sergey Mikhalkov, along with the old Muscovite tsarist
double-headed eagle, the reformers' favorite tri-color flag, and the
appellation comrade and the old Red Army banner for Russia's new army (see
Freidin's article on Putin
Copyright © 2002 by