What are the lyrics to Russia’s national anthem, and what do they mean?

13 May 2021, 16:48 | Updated: 13 May 2021, 17:30

Russia’s national anthem speaks to the complexity of its history.
Russia’s national anthem speaks to the complexity of its history. Picture: Getty

By Rosie Pentreath

The history of the Russian national anthem is as rich and complicated as the country’s. Here’s how we got to the lyrics and melody we hear today.

Like its culture and reputation on the world stage, Russia’s national anthem, officially named the ‘State Anthem of the Russian Federation’, speaks to the complexity of its history.

It’s one of the world’s many anthems that has been regularly changed to reflect the country’s leadership and political views.

The current anthem uses a 1939 melody by Alexander Alexandrov, which was originally composed for the anthem of Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union, and lyrics by Sergey Mikhalkov adopted more recently.

Classic FM presenter David Mellor enjoys the national anthem of the country that gave us Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Rachmaninov, telling us back in 2018: “I’ve loved this tune since I used to hear it at gold medal ceremonies for the Olympics. I’ve even got it on my mobile phone.”

Read more: Triumph for Russian giant Rachmaninov in Ultimate Classic FM Hall of Fame

What is the history of the Russian national anthem?

The melody and lyric combination heard today was established in 2000 by the Putin regime, following a period of upheaval and debate around what Russia’s anthem should be. Prior to the current Alexandrov-Mikhalkov combination, a piece by Mikhail Glinka called ‘Patrioticheskaya Pesnya’, which had no lyrics, had been used since 1990.

And before that, in 1939, Alexandrov’s current music was used for the first time – in the ‘Hymn of the Bolshevik Party’. The communist hymn ‘L’Internationale,’ which had been written in the late 19th century by two French workers, was heard for a brief time too, before the USSR adopted ‘Gimn Sovetskogo Soyuza’ (‘Hymn of the Soviet Union’) as its national anthem in 1944, using Alexandrov’s music once again.

Before this, 19th-century Imperial Russia had opted for ‘The Prayer of the Russians’ to be the Russian national anthem.

Today’s lyrics drop Soviet references and reveal pride and brotherhood in an old country, which stretches from the Artic in the north down to the Caucasus in the south.

What are the lyrics of the Russian national anthem?

Rossiya – svyashchennaya nasha derzhava.
Rossiya – lyubimaya nasha strana.
Moguchaya volya, velikaya slava –
Tvoio dostoyanye na vse vremena!

Slav'sya, Otechestvo nashe svobodnoye
Bratsikh narodov soyuz vekovoi
Predkami dannaya mudrost' narodnaya!
Slav'sya, strana! My gordimsya toboi!

Ot yuzhnyh morei do polyarnogo kraya
Raskinulis' nashi lesa i polya.
Odna ty na svete! Odna ty takaya –
Khranimaya Bogom rodnaya zemlya!

Slav'sya, Otechestvo nashe svobodnoye
Bratsikh narodov soyuz vekovoi
Predkami dannaya mudrost' narodnaya!
Slav'sya, strana! My gordimsya toboi!

Shirokii prostor dlya mechty i dlya zhizni.
Gryadushchiye nam otkryvayut goda.
Nam silu daiot nasha vernost' Otchizne.
Tak bylo, tak yest' i tak budet vsegda!

Slav'sya, Otechestvo nashe svobodnoye
Bratsikh narodov soyuz vekovoi
Predkami dannaya mudrost' narodnaya!
Slav'sya, strana! My gordimsya toboi!

What does Russia’s national anthem mean in English?

Russia is our sacred state,
Russia is our beloved country.
A mighty will, great glory -
Your dignity for all time!

Be glorified, our free Fatherland,
The age-old union of fraternal peoples,
Ancestor-given wisdom of the people!
Be glorified, country! We are proud of you!

From the southern seas to the polar edge
Our forests and fields are spread out.
You are the only one in the world! You are the only one -
the native land so kept by God!

Be glorified, our free Fatherland,
The age-old union of fraternal peoples,
Ancestor-given wisdom of the people!
Be glorified, country! We are proud of you!

A wide scope for dreams and for life
The coming years open to us.
We are given strength by our fidelity to the Fatherland.
So it was, so it is and it will always be so!

Be glorified, our free Fatherland,
The age-old union of fraternal peoples,
Ancestor-given wisdom of the people!
Be glorified, country! We are proud of you!