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Russia's National Anthem

JULY 2000

Putin Wants To Restore Soviet National Anthem Says Report

President Vladimir Putin would like to see the old Soviet national anthem sung again in place of the one approved for post-communist Russia by Boris Yeltsin, a newspaper reported Monday.

The Moscow daily Sevodnya said Putin preferred the sound of the stirring music written during World War II by the composer Alexander Alexandrov.

The words, written by Sergei Mikhalkov, father of the moviemaker Nikita Mikhalkov, celebrate "the unshakeable union of free republics." of the former Soviet Union.

The Kremlin would neither confirm nor deny the report. "Any change in Russia's national anthem would have to be proposed by parliament before being signed by the head of state," a spokesman said.

The present anthem is from a work by 19th century Russian composer Mikhail Glinka.

The Duma, or lower house, dominated by communists and nationalists, had appealed in March last year for the restoration of the Soviet anthem, but there was no follow-up.


Russia's new State Council set Stalin's choice as anthem of the Soviet Union against capitalist Russia's current theme in the next round of the country's decade-long battle for a popular anthem.  The Soviet anthem and 19th-century composer Mikhail Glinka's tune saw off six rival offerings, including one from an ageing pop diva, at the inaugural session of an advisory body to President Vladimir Putin comprising Russia's regional bosses.  Pop singer Alla Pugachyova's effort fell by the wayside when faced by the two big hitters in a race to find an anthem that has split Russia down musical and political lines.

"We listened to eight variations of the anthem and decided to propose two -the current, existing anthem and the anthem of the Soviet Union," said Vladimir Yakovlev, governor of Russia's second city St Petersburg. "It should have new words naturally. There should definitely be new words written for the music," he added hastily about the Soviet anthem, which was written by Alexander Alexandrov.

Former President Boris Yeltsin forced a little-known tune by 19th century composer Mikhail Glinka on Russia in the early 1990s after the Soviet Union collapsed.   But the music has signally failed to stir national passions and political in-fighting between Yeltsin and a recalcitrant parliament dominated by leftists left Russia without any words for its "first song."  Reigning soccer champions Spartak Moscow complained to Putin over the summer that the current anthem was impossible to sing, had led to a loss of morale and dip in form.

The embarrassment reached new heights during the Sydney Olympics when Russian gold medallists complained they had to stand in silence during medal ceremonies.  The search for a rousing, popular anthem has now become an affair of state and Putin was given a CD with eight songs and a variety of texts vying for the honor.

Liberals say Stalin's bloody purges make the music inappropriate for 21st century Russia, and accuse leftists of seeking to take the country back to the USSR by reintroducing the tune and adopting other Soviet icons.  Polls show only 15 percent of Russians like the current anthem - based on Glinka's "Patriotic Song" - and that 49 percent favor a return to Alexandrov's music.

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