Putin Sings Praises of Old-New Russian Anthem

ByABC News
December 26, 2000, 10:52 AM

M O S C O W, Dec. 26 -- The tune that Russians once sang in praise of the unbreakable Soviet Union is their anthem again, a decade after the union broke up.

Russian President Vladimir Putin today signed into law bills that restored the music chosen by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin as Russias national anthem.

The act fulfills a pledge to have the tune in place in timeto ring in the new year, but liberals have said the move could raise the ghosts of Russias bloody past.

Putin also made the white, blue and red post-Soviettricolor Russias state flag and the tsarist-era two-headed eagle the state symbol. Parliament had earlier passed the laws at the Kremlins request.

The Kremlin said Putin had set up a committee to pick newwords to accompany the tune hand-picked by Stalin in 1943,replacing lines that began: Unbreakable union of freerepublics.

Officially, a contest is to be held for the new verses, butthe Kremlin has already leaked proposed new lyrics written by childrens poet Sergei Mikhalkov, now 87, who wrote the original words.

It would not be the first time Mikhalkov has changed thewords: after Stalin died, he was commissioned to rewrite a verse to remove the out-of-favor dictators name.

A Decade Without Symbols

Putins predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, had ditched the Sovietanthem, picking a tune by 19th century composer Mikhail Glinka, but it never caught on and no one wrote words.

Russian soccer players complained they had nothing to sing at matches.

During Yeltsins decade in office Russia had no officialsymbols, with Communists in control of parliament refusing to formally ditch the Soviet anthem, the hammer and sickle seal or the red Soviet state flag.

The red flag now remains as the symbol of the Russian army.

Putin has portrayed his decision to put the Soviet anthemalongside the other symbols as a way of paying respect to the military, cultural and scientific triumphs of different periods in Russian history.