The State Duma on Friday overwhelmingly approved President Vladimir
Putin's request to reinstate the tune of the Stalin-era anthem
and a tsarist flag and eagle as the country's state symbols. The
Duma pushed through the legislation in less than three hours.
The most hotly disputed measure, the "Unbreakable Union"
anthem, was backed by 381 votes to 51. The white, blue and red
tricolor and the double-headed eagle coat of arms also passed
easily, as did restoration of the Soviet-era red banner for the
armed forces. A delighted Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said
the vote on the rousing anthem music enabled Russians to be proud
of Soviet-era achievements. "We have restored the anthem
of the Soviet Union," Zyuganov told Ekho Moskvy radio. "The
great music of [World War II] victory, the flag that we planted
atop the Reichstag, the anthem that helped us move into space
and create a complete system of health care and education."
The legislation will provide Russia with an official coat of arms,
flag and anthem for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet
Union. Liberals, who had demanded a new anthem to break with the
excesses of Stalinism, cried foul, saying they had been denied
time to speak during the Duma session. Grigory Yavlinsky, veteran
leader of the Yabloko party, said liberals might challenge the
procedural violations in the Constitutional Court. He said the
vote was a harbinger of terrible things to come. "We believe
this is a signal about where our society is heading and what we
can expect in the near future," he told reporters outside
the Duma. "It removes all illusions about the medium-term
policy of the country's administration." The rousing melody
will replace an arcane 19th-century tune for which no words had
been written. That tune, along with the coat of arms and flag,
were only temporary stand-ins approved by decree under Former
President Boris Yeltsin. The anthem remains wordless for the moment
pending a study of proposed new lyrics. Various sets of words
have been put forward and among suggested authors is Sergei Mikhalkov,
who wrote the original lyrics and has since amended them twice.
The legislation stipulates that those present during the playing
of the anthem must stand to attention and men must remove their
hats. Those found to have insulted the anthem will be subject
to criminal proceedings.
As debate got under way,
party activists gathered
Moscow's main post
passers-by to send
Putin denouncing the
proposals. News reports
police had detained
several of the
protesters at the
Right Forces Duma deputy
Bondar, but released all
of them by
demonstrators backing the
anthem stood outside
a few minor scuffles broke out as deputies made their way
Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II, another surprise backer of
the Soviet-era music, exercised
caution after the vote, telling NTV television that state
symbols "must not divide our
But many Russians seemed unmoved by Friday's decision.
"It makes no difference to me and it certainly doesn't to
him," said Anatoly, gesturing
toward his young son. "I think we should have one, but
whether it's old or new really
"The problem with Glinka's music is that no one
understands it," said Volodya, a taxi
driver in central Moscow. "I like Alexandrov's music, but
I definitely think they should
change the words. It's music, not politics."
Alan Rousso, director of the Moscow Carnegie Center
think-tank, said he thought the
large majority of people would be somewhere between
indifferent and supportive of
the decision to reinstate the anthem.
"I don't think it's terribly important, but it does
exemplify to a degree the confusion in
the Kremlin over the direction in which the country should
be moving," Rousso said.
"It also shows Putin as a pragmatist. … [He] is trying to
have it both ways, and there is
no clearer indication of this than putting together the
Soviet-era anthem with the
imperial flag," Rousso said.
"But I also think he was ill-advised not to more radically
break with the past, as that
would help to give the new Russia its own identity."
Yavlinsky: approval of the music by Aleksandrov as the hymn for
Russia represents a step towards a split in society
and the SPS oppose restoration of the symbols of the Soviet Union
proposes the march “Farewell of a Slavic woman” as a new hymn