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The history of the Russian national anthem is as rich and complicated as the country’s. Like its culture and reputation on the world stage, Russia’s national anthem, officially named the ‘State Anthem of the Russian Federation’, speaks to the complexity of its history.

What is The Russian National Anthem?

The national anthem of Russia is officially known as the “State Anthem of the Russian Federation.” The music of the anthem was composed by Alexander Alexandrov in 1939 as the State Anthem of the Soviet Union. The lyrics to the original song of the Soviet Union were written by Gabriel El-Registan and Sergey Mikhalkov. However, when this song was adopted by Russia, there were no lyrics used. This is because the former lyrics referenced Joseph Stalin. Mikhalkov wrote new lyrics in 1977 that took the focus off of the war and shed light on communism within the nation.

The music for the Russian national anthem was officially adopted on December 25, 2000. The lyrics were adopted just five days later. There has been some controversy surrounding this national anthem. Only about 56% of Russians say that they feel proud when hearing the song, while just one-quarter actually like the song, according to a poll taken in 2009. Many Russians are not supportive of this anthem because they disagree with a revised version of the Soviet Union’s anthem being used as their national song.

What is the history of the Russian national anthem?

National Anthem Of Russia: History, Lyrics And Interesting Facts
Photo The Moscow Times

The melody and lyric combination heard today was established in 2000 by the Putin regime, following a period of upheaval and debate around what Russia’s anthem should be. Prior to the current Alexandrov-Mikhalkov combination, a piece by Mikhail Glinka called ‘Patrioticheskaya Pesnya’, which had no lyrics, had been used since 1990.

And before that, in 1939, Alexandrov’s current music was used for the first time – in the ‘Hymn of the Bolshevik Party’. The communist hymn ‘L’Internationale,’ which had been written in the late 19th century by two French workers, was heard for a brief time too, before the USSR adopted ‘Gimn Sovetskogo Soyuza’ (‘Hymn of the Soviet Union’) as its national anthem in 1944, using Alexandrov’s music once again.

Before this, 19th-century Imperial Russia had opted for ‘The Prayer of the Russians’ to be the Russian national anthem.

Today’s lyrics drop Soviet references and reveal pride and brotherhood in an old country, which stretches from the Artic in the north down to the Caucasus in the south.

In its time, Russia has had a total of seven different national anthems!

Yes, seven! The first officially declared national anthem was introduced in 1816 by Tsar Alexander I, entitled ‘The Prayer of the Russians’ (Молитва русских). In 1833, it was replaced by ‘God Save the Tsar!’ (Боже, царя храни!), which was replaced in turn by the ‘Worker’s Marseillaise’ (Рабочая марсельеза) in March 1917. This too was scrapped months later, when the anthem of international revolutionary socialism, ‘The Internationale’, was adopted by the new Bolshevik government. In 1944, yet another anthem was brought in, the ‘State Anthem of the Soviet Union’, which lasted until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It was then replaced by ‘The Patriotic Song’ (Патриотическая песня), composed by the 19th century composer Mikhail Glinka; however, soon after becoming president in 2000, Vladimir Putin again changed the national anthem to the State Anthem of the Soviet Union, with new lyrics.

Some of the national anthems were partly stolen from abroad

The lyrics to ‘The Prayer of the Russians’ were written by Vasilii Zhukovskii, but set to the tune of the British national anthem, ‘God Save the King’. The national anthem of 1917, the ‘Worker’s Marseillaise’ was of French origin; however, it was modified by Pyotr Lavrov, who made it sound more Russian by changing the meter andDuring two separate periods, the national anthem had no words!

The Soviet government began to denounce Stalin after his death in 1953 and lower the public’s regard for him, meaning that they had to altogether remove the lyrics of the State Anthem, which praised him. They didn’t actually ever replace the old lyrics, so between 1955 and 1977 the State Anthem had no words! This was also true for ‘The Patriotic Song’, a piano composition which didn’t have any words in the first place. the harmonies.

Original Lyrics of the Russian National Anthem

National Anthem Of Russia: History, Lyrics And Interesting Facts
Photo Russia Beyond

Rossiya – svyashchennaya nasha derzhava.

Rossiya – lyubimaya nasha strana.

Moguchaya volya, velikaya slava –

Tvoio dostoyanye na vse vremena!

Slav'sya, Otechestvo nashe svobodnoye

Bratsikh narodov soyuz vekovoi

Predkami dannaya mudrost' narodnaya!

Slav'sya, strana! My gordimsya toboi!

Ot yuzhnyh morei do polyarnogo kraya

Raskinulis' nashi lesa i polya.

Odna ty na svete! Odna ty takaya –

Khranimaya Bogom rodnaya zemlya!

Slav'sya, Otechestvo nashe svobodnoye

Bratsikh narodov soyuz vekovoi

Predkami dannaya mudrost' narodnaya!

Slav'sya, strana! My gordimsya toboi!

Shirokii prostor dlya mechty i dlya zhizni.

Gryadushchiye nam otkryvayut goda.

Nam silu daiot nasha vernost' Otchizne.

Tak bylo, tak yest' i tak budet vsegda!

Slav'sya, Otechestvo nashe svobodnoye

Bratsikh narodov soyuz vekovoi

Predkami dannaya mudrost' narodnaya!

Slav'sya, strana! My gordimsya toboi!

English Lyrics of the Russian National Anthem

Russia is our sacred state,

Russia is our beloved country.

A mighty will, great glory -

Your dignity for all time!

Be glorified, our free Fatherland,

The age-old union of fraternal peoples,

Ancestor-given wisdom of the people!

Be glorified, country! We are proud of you!

From the southern seas to the polar edge

Our forests and fields are spread out.

You are the only one in the world! You are the only one -

the native land so kept by God!

Be glorified, our free Fatherland,

The age-old union of fraternal peoples,

Ancestor-given wisdom of the people!

Be glorified, country! We are proud of you!

A wide scope for dreams and for life

The coming years open to us.

We are given strength by our fidelity to the Fatherland.

So it was, so it is and it will always be so!

Be glorified, our free Fatherland,

The age-old union of fraternal peoples,

Ancestor-given wisdom of the people!

Be glorified, country! We are proud of you!

There are special rules about how the Russian national anthem must be sung

The law stipulates that the State Anthem of the Russian Federation must be performed only with the original music and the original lyrics. When the anthem is played in an official context, men must remove any headwear and everybody has to stand up, facing towards the Russian flag if one is present.

Why is the Russian National Anthem not being played at the Olympics and Paralympics?

Because of the restrictions made on the Russian Olympic Committee at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics, the Russian National Anthem is not allowed to be played. Instead, we hear the sounds of classical music when a Russian athlete wins a gold medal. But what exactly is that piece of music?

It’s Tchaikovsky‘s Piano Concerto No. 1. Tchaikovsky, one of Russia’s most famous composers, wrote the work at the end of 1874 – but it was revised several times following criticism from the work’s initial dedicatee, Nikolai Rubinstein. It was the first of three piano concertos written by Tchaikovsky.

Russia has been officially ‘banned’ from the 2021 Olympics and Paralympics by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The decision was first announced in 2019, with an initial ban from the following two Olympic Games or any world championship sporting event for the following two years.

As a result, Russian athletes are now competing under the banner of the ‘Russian Olympic Committee’. Part of the rules on banning a country from the Olympics and Paralympics means the country’s national anthem can no longer be played. As a result, Russia chose a new piece of music to reflect their nation’s athletes in victory.

The country has actually been banned from all international sporting competitions between 2019-22, so you might be hearing Tchaikovsky‘s First Piano Concerto more than you thought. There’ll be no Russian National Anthem played at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing or the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

But where might you recognise that tune from?

Although it’s beloved by classical music lovers, Tchaikovsky‘s Piano Concerto also has a place in the hearts of pop culture addicts, who may remember it as the opening of Hooked on Classics.

Hooked on Classics was a pop phenomenon in 1981, when the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra recorded an album which blended snippets of classical music with disco drum beats.

Do you know?

Russian people had the opportunity to suggest their own lyrics for the national anthem

In 1943, Stalin began looking for a new national anthem, and held a contest in which over 200 composers put forward their own compositions to replace ‘The Internationale’. Famous Soviet composers Dmitrii Shostakovich and Aram Khachaturian worked on a joint composition and entered the contest with, but were rejected. In the 1990s, after president Boris Yeltsin changed the national anthem to ‘The Patriotic Song’, there was a competition which any ordinary Russian could enter and suggest lyrics to put to the music. However, Yeltsin did not actually select any one of the entries!

National Symbols Of Russia

The Double-Headed Eagle

National Anthem Of Russia: History, Lyrics And Interesting Facts
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The eagle carries a sceptre, the sign of state power, and an orb, the sign of unity. You can see St George on the breast of the eagle. It is the oldest Russian symbol of love for Motherland. You can also see the eagle on the back of modern Russian coins.The double-headed eagle is the emblem of Russia. Above the heads there are three crowns. Three crowns is the symbol of sovereignty of the state, equality of the main governmental branches of power — legislative, judicial and executive.

National Flag

The national flag of Russia is a tri color flag-white color which lies on the top, blue in the middle and red on the bottom. White stands for nobility and frankness; blue symbolizes loyalty, honesty, chastity and scarlet represents self-sacrifice, generosity and love. While some Russians believe that red means the land, blue stands for sky, and white symbolizes heaven.

The current Russian flag was adopted on August 21, 1991 just before the country became an independent state. Most historians trace the origin of Russia’s flag to Peter the Great. In 1699, out of hundreds of different flags, Peter selected the flag similar to the flag of the Netherlands — white, blue and red flag. His design was used as a Russian maritime flag for merchant ships and then it was adopted as the civil flag of Russia in 1883.

Non-official symbol: Matryoshka

National Anthem Of Russia: History, Lyrics And Interesting Facts
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Matryoshka is the most famous symbol of Russia and the most popular Russian souvenir all around the World. It is a set of wooden dolls nested into each other. The painted image on them is most often a woman wearing traditional Russian costume decorated with flowers and patterns. It seems that the matryoshka has come to us from the antic world of legends and fairy tales, though in reality the wooden doll is only about hundred years in existence.

Matryoshka was first made in Russia at the end of the 19th century (precisely in the 1880s), when Russia was experiencing a rising sense of culture and national identity. The industrialist and patron of the arts, Savva Mamontov, established a Children’s Education workshop where Russian folk craftsmen produced a variety of folk-art style toys for children and developed the idea of the creation of a new Russian style. Once somebody has brought a funny Japanese figurine of a bald-headed old man Fukuruma, which consisted of seven other figurines nestled one another. It was made on the island of Honshu, Japan in the late 1800s by an unknown Russian monk.

With the arrival of the Russian-Japanese «Fukuruma» the craftman V. Zvezdochkin and artist S.Maliutin were inspired to create a new Russian folk art doll — matryoshka. In April of 1900, matryoshka was represented at the World fair in Paris, where it won the bronze medal and worldwide fame.

The name «matryoshka» comes from the Russian word for “mother” — «мать» (the Latin root “mater “- mother). Matryoshka has come to mean “little mother” based on the idea that the largest doll holds her babies inside like an expectant mother and that each daughter in turn becomes a mother. So matryoshka is a symbol of motherhood and it has a modified egg shape.

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