Putin Sings Praises of Old-New Russian Anthem

ByAndrei Shukshin

M O S C O W, Nov. 30, 2000 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin wants Russians to hum Stalin’s old anthem in the new millennium, but to sing of a flying Russian eagle instead of an “unbreakable” Soviet Union.

A Kremlin source said Putin wanted parliament to approve a law re-establishing the Soviet tune as the national song, with new words by the poet who composed the original nearly 60 years ago.

But Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexiy II, fearing the issuecould cause a rift in society, said any new anthem or statesymbols should unite Russians rather than divide.

Russia has been without an official anthem since 1991, whenthe “unbreakable” union broke up. An arcane tune without lyrics has been used as a stand-in, delighting no one.

Players on the national soccer team have said they feelfoolish standing with their mouths shut while the opposing side always has a morale-boosting song to sing.

Tired of years of dithering, Putin told a new advisory State Council grouping Russia’s regional leaders to decide whether to resurrect the catchy Soviet tune, write words for the current one or compose a new anthem altogether.

But Putin’s proposal to move quickly on the anthem has sparked a lively debate.

A National Debate

While most older people favor the familiar Soviet tune,newspapers said Alexiy was pressing the Kremlin not to reinstate music which many associated with repression and atheism.

He indicated to Russia’s independent NTV television that hefeared a national split over the issue.

“I think that any anthem should unite the nation. All the symbols which are adopted or approved by the Duma [lower house of parliament], which are legally approved, they should unite people and not divide them,” he told NTV.

The source said the Kremlin would send a bill to parliamentnext week proposing to keep intact the music composed by Alexander Alexandrov in 1943 and personally approved by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

It will be accompanied by new verses by 87-year-old SergeiMikhalkov, a beloved children’s poet who wrote the original words in 1943.

New Symbols for the New Millennium

Parliamentarians will also have to vote to approve Russia’sother state symbols — the double-headed eagle and the red, white and blue flag.

Communists in parliament have long opposed replacing the old Soviet hammer and sickle and red flag. But the new symbols are given prominent mention in the words for the revived anthem, which may help make them relent.

The source said Putin wanted the country to enter themillennium, which Russians calculate starts in 2001, with a full array of state symbols.

Officially, eight tunes, including one by Russia’s most famous pop diva, are being considered for the new anthem.

But the Kremlin source quoted the opening lines of the verses Mikhalkov had written for the old tune, making it clear Putin had made up his mind.

“Its mighty wings spread above us/ The Russian eagle ishovering high/ The Fatherland’s tricolor symbol/ Is leadingRussia’s peoples to victory.”

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