National Anthem of Russia

National Anthem of Russia
Государственный гимн Российской Федерации
English: National Anthem of the Russian Federation
Gosudarstvenny Gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii

Performance of the Hymn of the Russian Federation by the Presidential Orchestra and Kremlin Choir at the inauguration of President Dmitry Medvedev at The Kremlin on 7 May 2008

National anthem of

Lyrics Sergey Mikhalkov, 2000
Music Alexander Alexandrov, 1939
Adopted 25 December 2000 (music)[1]
30 December 2000 (lyrics)[2]
Music sample
Hymn of the Russian Federation (Instrumental)
Performance of "Patrioticheskaya Pesnya" at the inauguration of Russian President Vladimir Putin on 7 May 2000

With the impending collapse of the Soviet Union in early 1990, a new national anthem was needed to help define the reorganized nation and to reject the Soviet past.[34][35] The Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR, Boris Yeltsin, was advised to revive "God Save The Tsar" with modifications to the lyrics. However, he instead selected a piece composed by Mikhail Glinka. The piece, known as "Patrioticheskaya Pesnya", was a wordless piano composition discovered after Glinka's death. "Patrioticheskaya Pesnya" was performed in front of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR on 23 November 1990.[36] The song was decreed by the Supreme Soviet to be the new Russian anthem that same day.[4]

Between 1990 and 1993, many votes were called for in the State Duma to make "Patrioticheskaya Pesnya" the official anthem of Russia. However, it faced stiff opposition from members of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, who wanted the Soviet anthem restored.[36] Constitutionally, the state symbols of Russia are an anthem, flag and coat of arms. According to Article 70 of the Constitution, these state symbols required further definition by future legislation.[37] As it was a constitutional matter, it had to be passed by a two-thirds majority in the Duma.[38] Yeltsin, then President of the Russian Federation, eventually issued a decree on 11 December 1993, making "Patrioticheskaya Pesnya" the official anthem for Russia.[30][39]

Call for lyrics

When "Patrioticheskaya Pesnya" was used as the national anthem, it never had official lyrics.[40] The anthem struck a positive chord because it did not contain elements from the Soviet past, and because the public considered Glinka to be a patriot and a true Russian.[36] However, the lack of lyrics doomed "Patrioticheskaya Pesnya".[41] Various attempts were made to compose lyrics for the anthem, including a contest that allowed any Russian citizen to participate. A committee set up by the government looked at over 6000 entries, and 20 were recorded by an orchestra for a final vote.[42]

The eventual winner was Viktor Radugin's "Be glorious, Russia" (Славься, Россия! ("Slavsya, Rossiya!)).[43] However, none of the lyrics were officially adopted by Yeltsin or the Russian government. One of the reasons that partially explained the lack of lyrics was the original use of Glinka's composition: the praise of the Tsar and of the Russian Orthodox Church.[44] Other complaints raised about the song were that it was hard to remember, uninspiring, and musically complicated.[45] It was one of the few national anthems that lacked official lyrics during this period.[46] The only other wordless national anthems in the period from 1990 to 2000 were "My Belarusy" of Belarus[47] (until 2002),[48] "Marcha Real" of Spain,[49] and "Intermezzo" of Bosnia and Herzegovina[50] (until 2009).[51]

Modern adoption

A musical score that has Russian text
The official arrangement of the Russian anthem completed in 2001

The anthem debate intensified in October 2000 when Yeltsin's successor, Vladimir Putin, was approached by Russian athletes who were concerned that they had no words to sing for the anthem during the medal ceremonies at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games. Putin brought public attention to the issue and put it before the State Council.[45] CNN also reported that members of the Spartak Moscow football club complained that the wordless anthem "affected their morale and performance".[52] Two years earlier, during the 1998 World Cup, members of the Russian team commented that the wordless anthem failed to inspire "great patriotic effort".[40]

In a November session of the Federation Council, Putin stated that establishing the national symbols (anthem, flag and coat of arms) should be a top priority for the country.[53] Putin pressed for the former Soviet anthem to be selected as the new Russian anthem, but strongly suggested that new lyrics be written. He did not say how much of the old Soviet lyrics should be retained for the new anthem.[40] Putin submitted the bill "On the National Anthem of the Russian Federation" to the Duma for their consideration on 4 December.[42] The Duma voted 381–51–1 in favor of adopting Alexandrov's music as the national anthem on 8 December 2000.[54] Following the vote, a committee was formed and tasked with exploring lyrics for the national anthem. After receiving over 6,000 manuscripts from all sectors of Russian society,[55] the committee selected lyrics by Mikhalkov for the anthem.[42]

Before the official adoption of the lyrics, the Kremlin released a section of the anthem, which made a reference to the flag and coat of arms:

Its mighty wings spread above us
The Russian eagle is hovering high
The Motherland’s tricolor symbol
Is leading Russia’s peoples to victory
—Kremlin source, [56]
Instrumental performance of the Russian national anthem at the 2010 Moscow Victory Day Parade in Moscow's Red Square, resplendent with a 21 gun salute

The above lines were omitted from the final version of the lyrics. After the bill was approved by the Federation Council on 20 December,[57] "On the National Anthem of the Russian Federation" was signed into law by President Putin on 25 December, officially making Alexandrov's music the national anthem of Russia. The law was published two days later in the official government journal Rossiyskaya Gazeta.[58] The new anthem was first performed on 30 December, during a ceremony at the Great Kremlin Palace in Moscow at which Mikhalkov's lyrics were officially made part of the national anthem.[59][60]

Not everyone agreed with the adoption of the new anthem. Yeltsin argued that Putin should not have changed the anthem merely to "follow blindly the mood of the people".[61] Yeltsin also felt that the restoration of the Soviet anthem was part of a move to reject post-communist reforms that had taken place since Russian independence and the fall of the Soviet Union.[41] This was one of Yeltsin's few public criticisms of Putin.[62]

The liberal political party Yabloko stated that the re-adoption of the Soviet anthem "deepened the schism in [Russian] society".[61] The Soviet anthem was supported by the Communist Party and by Putin himself. The other national symbols used by Russia in 1990, the white-blue-red flag and the double-headed eagle coat of arms, were also given legal approval by Putin in December, thus ending the debate over the national symbols.[63] After all of the symbols were adopted, Putin said on television that this move was needed to heal Russia's past and to fuse the short period of the Soviet Union with Russia's long history. He also stated that, while Russia's march towards democracy would not be stopped,[64] the rejection of the Soviet era would have left the lives of their mothers and fathers bereft of meaning.[65] It took some time for the Russian people to familiarize themselves with the anthem's lyrics; athletes were only able to hum along with the anthem during the medal ceremonies at the 2002 Winter Olympics.[41]

Public perception

A postage stamp showing Cyrillic characters.
A 2001 stamp released by Russian Post with the lyrics of the new anthem

The Russian national anthem is set to the melody of the Soviet anthem (used since 1944). As a result, there have been several controversies related to its use. For instance, some—including cellist Mstislav Rostropovich—have vowed not to stand during the anthem.[66][67] Russian cultural figures and government officials were also troubled by Putin's restoration of the Soviet anthem. A former adviser to both Yeltsin and Gorbachev stated that, when "Stalin's hymn" was used as the national anthem of the Soviet Union, millions were executed and other horrific crimes took place.[67]

At the 2007 funeral of Boris Yeltsin, the Russian anthem was played as his coffin was laid to rest at the Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow.[62] While it was common to hear the anthem during state funerals for Soviet civil and military officials,[68] honored citizens of the nation,[69] and Soviet leaders, as was the case for Alexei Kosygin, Leonid Brezhnev,[70] Yuri Andropov[71] and Konstantin Chernenko,[72] writing in the Daily Telegraph Boris Berezovsky felt that playing the anthem at Yeltsin's funeral "abused the man who brought freedom" to the Russian people.[73] The Russian government's states that the "solemn music and poetic work" of the anthem, despite its history, is a symbol of unity for the Russian people. Mikhalkov's words evoke "feelings of patriotism, respect for the history of the country and its system of government."[58]

In a 2009 poll conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center and publicized just two days before Russia's flag day (22 August), 56% of respondents stated that they felt proud when hearing the national anthem. However, only 39% could recall the words of the first line of the anthem. This was an increase from 33% in 2007. According to the survey, between 34 and 36% could not identify the anthem's first line. Overall, only 25% of respondents said they liked the anthem.[6] In the previous year, the Russian Public Opinion Research Center found out that 56% of Russians felt pride and admiration at the anthem, even though only 40% (up from 19% in 2004) knew the first words of the anthem. It was also noted in the survey that the younger generation was the most familiar with the words.[6]

In September 2009, a line from the lyrics used during Stalin's rule reappeared at the Moscow Metro station Kurskaya-Koltsevaya: "Stalin reared us on loyalty to the people. He inspired us to labor and heroism." While groups have threatened legal action to reverse the re-addition of this phrase on a stone banner at the vestibule’s rotunda, it was part of the original design of Kurskaya station and had been removed during de-Stalinization. Most of the commentary surrounding this event focused on the Kremlin's attempt to "rehabilitate the image" of Stalin by using symbolism sympathetic to or created by him.[74]

The Communist Party strongly supported the restoration of Alexandrov's melody, but some members proposed other changes to the anthem. In March 2010, Boris Kashin, a CPRF member of the Duma, advocated for the removal of any reference to God in the anthem. Kashin's suggestion was also supported by Alexander Nikonov, a journalist with SPID-INFO and an avowed atheist. Nikonov's argued that religion should be a private matter and should not be used by the state.[75] Kashin found that the cost for making a new anthem recording will be about 120,000 rubles. The Russian Government quickly rejected the request because it lacked statistical data and other findings.[76] Nikonov asked the Constitutional Court of Russia in 2005 if the lyrics are compatible with Russian law.[75]


A djvu file containing the Federal law of 25 December 2000 on the national anthem of Russia
Federal law of 25 December 2000 on the national anthem of Russia

Regulations for the performance of the national anthem are set forth in the law signed by President Putin on 25 December 2000. While a performance of the anthem may include only music, only words, or a combination of both, the anthem must be performed using the official music and words prescribed by law. Once a performance has been recorded, it may be used for any purpose, such as in a radio or television broadcast. The anthem may be played for solemn or celebratory occasions, such as the annual Victory Day parade in Moscow,[77] or the funerals of heads of state and other significant figures. When asked about playing the anthem during the Victory Day parades, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov stated that because of the acoustics of the Red Square, only an orchestra would be used because voices would be swallowed by the echo.[78]

The anthem is mandatory at the swearing-in of the President of Russia, for opening and closing sessions of the Duma and the Federation Council, and for official state ceremonies. It is played on television and radio at the beginning and end of the broadcast day. If programming is continuous, the anthem is played once at 0600 hours and again at midnight. The anthem is also played on New Years Eve after a speech by the President. It is played at sporting events in Russia and abroad, according to the protocol of the organization that is hosting the games. When the anthem is played, all headgear must be removed and all those in attendance must face the Russian flag, if it is present. Those who are in uniform must give a military salute when the anthem plays.[1]

The anthem is performed in 4/4 (common time) or in 2/4 (half time) in the key of C major, and has a tempo of 76 beats per minute. Using either time signature, the anthem must be played in a festive and quick tempo (Торжественно and Распевно in Russian). The government has released different notations for orchestras, brass bands and wind bands.[79][80]

According to Russian copyright law, state symbols and signs are not protected by copyright.[81] As such, the anthem's music and lyrics may be used and modified freely. Although the law calls for the anthem to be performed respectfully and for performers to avoid causing offense, it defines no offensive acts or penalties.[1] Standing for the anthem is required by law but, again, the law gives no penalty for refusing to stand.[82]

On one occasion in the summer of 2004, President Putin chastised the national football team for their behavior during the playing of the anthem. During the opening ceremonies of the 2004 European Football Championship, the team was caught on camera chewing gum during the Russian anthem. Through Leonid Tyagachev, then head of the Russian Olympic Committee, Putin told the team to stop chewing gum and to sing the anthem. Gennady Shvets, then the Russian Olympic Committee's press chief, denied being contacted by the Kremlin but said he was aware of displeasure with the players' behaviour.[83]

Official lyrics

Russian[2] Transliteration English translation[84]

Россия – священная наша держава,
Россия – любимая наша страна.
Могучая воля, великая слава –
Твоё достоянье на все времена!


Славься, Отечество наше свободное,
Братских народов союз вековой,
Предками данная мудрость народная!
Славься, страна! Мы гордимся тобой!

От южных морей до полярного края
Раскинулись наши леса и поля.
Одна ты на свете! Одна ты такая –
Хранимая Богом родная земля!


Широкий простор для мечты и для жизни
Грядущие нам открывают года.
Нам силу даёт наша верность Отчизне.
Так было, так есть и так будет всегда!


Rossiya – svyashchennaya nasha derzhava,
Rossiya – lyubimaya nasha strana.
Moguchaya volya, velikaya slava –
Tvoyo dostoyanye na vse vremena!


Slav'sya, Otechestvo nashe svobodnoye,
Bratskikh narodov soyuz vekovoy,
Predkami dannaya mudrost' narodnaya!
Slav'sya, strana! My gordimsya toboy!

Ot yuzhnykh morey do polyarnovo kraya
Raskinulis' nashi lesa i polya.
Odna ty na svete! Odna ty takaya –
Khranimaya Bogom rodnaya zemlya!


Shirokiy prostor dlya mechty i dlya zhizni.
Gryadushchiye nam otkryvayut goda.
Nam silu dayot nasha vernost' Otchizne.
Tak bylo, tak yest' i tak budet vsegda!


Russia – our holy nation,
Russia – our beloved country.
A mighty will, great glory –
Yours given for all time!


Be glorious, our free Fatherland,
Age-old union of fraternal peoples,
National wisdom given by our forebears!
Be glorious, our country! We are proud of you!

From the southern seas to the polar lands
Spread are our forests and fields.
You are unique in the world, one of a kind –
Native land protected by God!


Wide spaces for dreams and for living
Are opened for us by the coming years
Our loyalty to our Fatherland gives us strength.
Thus it was, thus it is and always will be!



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