An old song renewed for Russia
Saturday, 25 August 2007
Originally published on IHWC.NET in 2002
By Lucas Aykroyd
Like other Russian athletes, members of the national hockey team experience a wide range of emotions when they hear their anthem played at a sporting event.
As of December 2000, Russia reverted to using the music of the old Soviet anthem by assent of the Duma, the Russian parliament. Since the fall of the USSR, Russia had used a wordless piece by the classical composer Glinka, but its lack of widespread popularity paved the way for the return of Alexander Alexandrov’s melody, to which Sergei Mikhalkov added lyrics in 1943.
The original lyrics glorified Communism, the state ideology of the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1991, with such phrases as “O Party of Lenin, the strength of the people/To Communism’s triumph lead us on!”
The revised version, also written by Mikhalkov, simply exalts Russia. Its opening lines read: “Russia, our holy country! Russia, our beloved country! A mighty will, a great glory are your inheritance for all time.”
So when Russian captain Andrei Kovalenko hears the familiar rousing chords, what comes to mind? The sporting achievements of the old regime? Or the accompanying repression? Or the new words?
“It is a very difficult question for me,” said Kovalenko after Russia’s 3-2 win over Finland Thursday. “I don’t want to say that much, but lots of people don’t really know all the words for the anthem. So they might keep singing it with the old words. The music is still the same thing. As for myself, sometimes I do both. Sometimes I sing the old words, sometimes I sing the new ones. It depends how I feel on the ice. If we win, it doesn’t really matter for me.”
Yes, there’s no question the Russians will hope to hear the Alexandrov melody echoing through the Scandinavium after they take on Slovakia in the gold medal game in Gothenburg Saturday night. That would certainly be a familiar scene at the IIHF World Championships.