Thursday, May 25, 2006

a tale of two anthems

An interesting article called Anthem Passions in the Ukrainian Observer about the Ukrainian and Russian national anthems.

'Ukraine Has Not Yet Perished' was written as a poem in 1862 by Pavlo Chubynsky, a nineteen-year-old student... One year later, Mykhailo Verbytsky composed a tune to accompany this daring poem. Back then, a repressive campaign against Ukrainian culture was in full swing, but a miracle happened and Ukraine's intelligentsia and peasantry recognized this song as an unofficial national anthem.

Pavlo Chubynsky was victimized, and persecuted for the rest of his life. Mykhailo Verbytsky escaped this destiny, for he was living away from Russia. Vladimir Putin created the Russian state anthem, 'Russia is Our Great Country,' in 2001 by issuing a presidential decree to make the 1943 Soviet anthem new Russia's musical symbol, but he ordered that the lyrics be changed. The text was written by the famous Soviet poet Sergey Mikhalkov...The music was composed by Major General and Head of the Soviet Army Ensemble Aleksandr Aleksandrov...'

The article goes on to detail the misery Chubynsky suffered at the hands of the Russians, his talents and contributions to society, and his untimely death.

But his poem captured a nation and formed its identity:

It was the October of 1915. At the WWI Russian-Austrian front spontaneous fraternization was getting more common. Stepan Murinets, a Ukrainian officer of the Austrian army, saw some soldiers of his company hug their Russian counterparts. Suddenly, the Ukrainian anthem was performed in the crowd. The officer remembered that his country's great division made Ukrainians always sing anthems of other countries - Austria, Germany, Poland, Romania, or Russia. This was the first time he heard the Ukrainian anthem sound over the trenches. The Ukrainians wearing Russian greatcoats were singing it in unison, although the song was banned in Russia. On August 30, 1919, Stepan Murinets, a colonel of the Ukrainian army, was leading his regiment of Sich marksmen to Kyiv. Commander-in-Chief Symon Petlyura inspected the parade that day. The orchestra performed the anthem loudly and fearlessly in Kyiv's Sophia Square. A massive Bolshevik assault forced the ataman of the Ukrainian People's Republic and his troops to emigrate. Stepan was one of them and later wrote memoirs...

The writer of the article, unfortunately, doesn't seem to value the tenacity and daring of the Ukrainian anthem, despite what he writes. Odd. Or, perhaps just an illustration of the demoralizing effect of centuries foreign occupation.

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