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A note before you read: I provide four videos in this diary. The video this diary concerns is the last one and it moved me to tears.
The history of the Russian national anthem is as complex as the political intrigue that has occurred since it was first adopted. Composed in 1944 by A.V. Aleksandrov, the original lyrics were written by Sergey Mikhalkov and Gabriel El-Registan, although Stalin himself had a heavy hand in the editing process as you might imagine.
After Stalin was kicked to the обочина, Khrushchev went on a campaign to rid Russia of all things, well, Stalin, including the lyrics to the national anthem. One can only assume that Khrushchev lacked even basic imagination as he seemed to think it a good idea to leave the tune wordless from there on out.
When Brezhnev came along he decided anthem austerity must go and so tweaked out any and all Stalin references from the original lyrics and plugged the rest back in. Once again the populace got to wail along with this ponderous tune. Go Russia!
The national sing along was to be relatively short-lived as Yeltzin came to power. As the Soviet Union began to collapse around his ears, he decided a new national anthem would provide a bit of cheery propaganda and so declared the Patriotic Song to be the new anthem. The tune composed by Michail Glinka was sufficiently Russian, but failed to gain traction because it too had no lyrics for people to sing along to. Several attempts were made to provide lyrics to the new anthem. Even the public was invited into a competition to pen their own submissions. Viktor Radugin's Be glorious, Russia was finally adopted but by then no one was paying it any attention. Rapid changes in Russia put a unifying agreement to adopt a new anthem on the back burner.
By the time that Vladimir Putin came to the stage, he capitalized on the mood of the country longing for the old ways and uncertain about its future. He scrapped the Patriotic Song in favor of returning to Aleksandrov's original composition. New lyrics were written designed to reflect a populist nostalgia while eliminating unsightly references to uglier times. It was a pretty good moment for The Pooty Poot.
There is irony to be had in all of this. The return to the old anthem was once again adopted without new lyrics. It was an anthem sans paroles. It was during the 2000 Summer Olympics when Russian athletes complained that a lyric-less version of their national anthem left them feeling somewhat demoralized and alienated from the events. It was then that today's lyrics were reinstated. The athletes wanted to hear their supporters singing along to a unifying anthem. And so the relatively new lyrics set to an old tune will be sung at the Sochi Olympics. A lot.
Which brings me to the reason I wrote this diary. Sweden, in my opinion, just set the standard for shaming Russia for its drastic turn away from protecting human rights with this video. It is a beautiful thing to see the estimated 2000 Swedish people it took to shame Russia with kindness while wishing all of our athletes well. Please take a moment and watch how it's done.