Remembering Sergei Vladimirovich Mikhalkov
On the anniversary of his 100th birthday, the 13th of March 2013, it is time to remember the Russian writer, Sergei Vladimirovich Mikhalkov, author of children's books, satirical fables, film scripts and theatre plays, but above all, the Soviet National Anthem and the Anthem of the Russian Federation.
by Olivia Kroth
He was born in Moscow on the 13th of March 1913, in the noble family of the Mikhalkovs, with tsarist admirals and generals among his ancestors. Sergei Vladimirovich Mikhalkov became one of the best known Soviet writers during his lifetime. His career spanned 70 years, from the 1930s to the turn of the century.
Sergei Mikhalkov achieved his first literary success as the author of children's books, especially the poems about Uncle Styopa. Some of his illustrated works are valued collectors' items today. In 1936, he married Natalia Konchalovskaya, who was a poetess herself. She also worked as translator, while he became the Chairman of the Soviet Writers' Union.
In 1942, at the age of 29, he received a commission to write lyrics for the national anthem. The Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, liked his texts and chose him for this task, together with the composer, Alexander Alexandrov, who composed the melody.
The new Soviet National Anthem was presented to Joseph Stalin in 1943 and played for the first time on Soviet radio at midnight, the 1st of January 1944. It soon became popular throughout the entire Soviet Union, since it promised imminent victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). The text was translated into various languages of the Soviet Republics in the USSR.
It rang a bell in the leader's ears, because it praised Joseph Stalin. He probably enjoyed reading his own thoughts mirrored in the lyrics. For example, his famous quote about human will, "I believe in one thing only, the power of human will." The first stanza sums up Russia's development from the beginning in the Kievan Rus' to the formation of the Soviet Union:
An unbreakable union of free republics,
The Great Rus' joined together, forever to stand.
Long live the creation of the will of the people,
The united, mighty Soviet Union.
The second stanza is dedicated to the Soviet leaders, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin:
Through tempests the sun of freedom shone to us,
And the great Lenin illuminated our path.
We were raised by Stalin to be true to the people,
To labour and exploits he inspired us.
Imminent victory over the Nazi invaders is evoked in the third stanza:
We grew our army in battles,
We will sweep the vile invaders out of the way.
We shall in battle decide the fate of generations,
We shall lead to glory our Motherland.
The chorus echoes the words: "glory victory, Motherland Soviets. "
Be glorious, our free Motherland!
A reliable stronghold, the people's friendship!
Banner of the Soviets, banner of the people!
May it lead from victory to victory!
Sergei Mikhalkov received many Soviet awards and prizes: the Stalin Prize, 2nd Degree in 1941 for his children's poetry; the Stalin Prize, 2nd Degree in 1942, for his film script"Front Girlfriend'; the Stalin Prize 2nd Degree, in 1950, for his plays, "Ilya Golovin" and "I want to go home"; the Lenin Prize, in 1970, for his children's poetry; the State Prize of the Soviet Union, in 1977, for his satirical play "Foam"performed at the Moscow Theatre of Satire.
Furthermore, Sergei Mikhalkov became the recipient of high Soviet state decorations: the Order of the Red Star, in 1943, for his exemplary performance in command assignments at the front, struggling against the Nazi invaders; the Order of the Red Banner, in 1945, for displaying courage and heroism at the front; four Orders of Lenin, in 1939, 1963, 1973 and 1983; two Orders of the Red Banner of Labour, in 1967 and 1988; the Order of the October Revolution, in 1971; Hero of Socialist Labour, in 1973; the Order of the Patriotic War, 1st Degree, in 1985.
Sergei Mikhalkov stayed married with Natalia Konchalovskaya until her death in 1988. Eleven years later, in 1997, he married the physics professor, Yulia Subbotina, who survived him as his widow, in 2009.
When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, Sergei Mikhalkov's career, however, was far from over. At the age of 87, he received a commission from President Vladimir Putin to write the lyrics for a new National Anthem of the Russian Federation.
So the writer picked up his pen once more and created a text which the President liked. Again, he used the keywords "glory, will of the nation and future," albeit in a slightly modified context, in the first stanza:
Russia, our sacred state,
Russia, our beloved country,
A mighty will, a great glory,
Your possession for all future ages.
In the second stanza, the poet reminds all citizens of their country's immense size and unique culture. Now God is called upon, which was forbidden during Soviet times:
From the southern seas to the polar regions
Spread our forests and fields.
You are unique in the world, you alone are like this,
Our dear land, kept safe by God.
In the third stanza, loyalty to the Motherland and strength are the keywords. A new note is strung by the mention of dreams:
Wide amplitude for dreams and life
Is opened up for us with each passing year.
Loyalty to the Motherland gives us strength.
Thus it was, is and always shall be.
The chorus takes up the poet's main idea of Russian history as a continuum, beginning with the Kievan Rus' continued through Soviet times and the Russian Federation:
Glory to you, our free Motherland,
Age old union of fraternal peoples,
Ancestor given wisdom of the nation,
Glory to you, our country, we are proud of you.
The new National Anthem of the Russian Federation was adopted in 2001. It is still sung today, four years after the poet's death. In 2003, on Sergei Mikhalkov's 90th birthday, President Vladimir Putin visited the writer at home and presented him the Order for Service to the Fatherland, 2nd Class.
Other awards he received from the Russian Federation: the Order of Friendship, in 1993, for strengthening inter-ethnic cultural relations; the Order of Honour, in 1998, for great personal contributions to the development of domestic multi-national culture; the Order of Saint Andrew, in 2008, for outstanding contributions to the development of national literature and social activities.
Some readers might ask what made this man so immensely popular and unique. A look at his zodiac sign could be enlightening. Born on the 13th of March, Sergei Mikhalkov belongs to the sign of Pisces. In astrology, Pisceans are considered to be artistic, compassionate, idealistic, imaginative, intuitive, sensitive and sympathetic.
Besides his literary talent, Sergei Mikhalkov certainly was compassionate and sensitive to his countrymen's sorrow during the hard years of the Great Patriotic War. He was also imaginative and intuitive, sensing that the war would end with glory and victory for the Soviet Union.
Of course, he was intuitive about Joseph Stalin's wish to be immortalized in the text. In his idealism, the poet depicted only the positive sides of the Soviet Union, stressing the greatness of its people, their long history and beautiful country.
Pisceans are believed to be gifted with quick understanding. They observe and listen well. Furthermore, they are receptive to atmosphere. Thus, Sergei Mikhalkov sensed the changes after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He did not hang on to outdated ideals, but changed with the times. He knew, however, that "glory" and "victory" are timeless values, so they appear again in the National Anthem of the Russian Federation.
Planet Neptune, the ancient God of the Sea, rules Pisces. Astrologers say that Neptune is the planet of imagination, intuition and inspiration, giving dreams and visions. Sergei Mikhalkov's texts mirror the dreams of his nation. He articulated his people's vision of a peaceful time after victory.
Inspired by Neptune, he might have known that all human beings within a nation are connected by a mysterious bond. Neptune helps to experience a feeling of transcendence, being part of everything. With Neptune, artists, poets and musicians swim the waters of fantasy, merging their souls in the collective dreams of humankind. It is this psychic and spiritual quality of the medium, which makes Sergei Mikhalkov's lyrics for the National Anthems so notable.
In addition, Neptune in astrology is seen as a generational planet, shared by everyone in an age group. The writer was able to express his generation's feelings in a text for the multi-ethnic Soviet collective, and once more, 60 years later, for the multi-national Russian Federation.
Neptune shows a strong aspect of power and the collective. People under his influence will be able to take a close look at a nation's culture, heritage, history, rituals, traditions and way of life, expressing them by artistic, literary or musical means.
There is a strong artistic streak in Sergei Mikhalkov's extended family, handed down from one generation to the next. He felt drawn to a woman whose grandfather was the famous painter, Vasily Surov (1848-1916), with Cossack roots, born in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. Her father, Pyotr Konchalovsky (1876-1956), was also a painter of Ukrainian origin.
Natalia Konchalovskaya was a poetess, like her husband, Sergei Mikhalkov, although she did not acquire his fame. Their two sons, Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky, born in 1937, and Nikita Mikhalkov, born in 1945, are film directors. Both brothers are or were married to film actresses.
Their daughters are film actresses as well, notably Nadezhda Mikhalkova, born in 1986, who starred in her father's movie "Burnt by the Sun." Five generations of artistic people, and no end in sight, this is surely Neptune in its purest expression.
Pisceans are believed to be loyal and faithful. Sergei Mikhalkov lived with his first wife until she died. His own death, at the age of 96, separated him from his second wife. His funeral service in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral of Moscow was attended by his large family and circle of friends, as well as many government officials. The writer was buried with full military honours at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.
We might think of him the next time we listen to the National Anthem of the Russian Federation.
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