Russia has a long history of national anthems. In the times of the Imperial Russia, “The Prayer of the Russians” which was then morphed into “God Save the Tsar” was chosen as anthem (source and source). These anthems interestingly were modeled after British “God Save the King” and “Rule Britannia” as well as other anthems from France and the Netherlands (source). Even before the official anthem was chosen, religious and military songs were used to honor the state such as “How Glorious is our Lord” and “Let the Thunder of Victory Rumble. After the February Revolution in 1917, the “Worker’s Marseillaise” taken from the French “La Marseillaise” was used as an anthem briefly until the October Revolution when the Bolsheviks changed the tune to the anthem of revolutionary socialism called “L’Internationale” (source and source). Fun fact: “La Marseillaise” is also where The Beatles All You Need Is Love comes from.
This latest installment of the national anthem lasted until 1943 when the Comintern was dissolved. The national anthem was historically associated with the Comintern, and Stalin didn’t want any connection. These actions were very representative of Stalin’s character who often wanted to police thought to increase control and power by sort of rewriting history in a way. It’s also very indicative of the times where this was seen as a period of restructuring – a shift from some of the liberating themes that originally drove the Bolsheviks to more socially conservative roles with the intent of end goal being control. Stalin wanted to reshape and recreate the ideal Soviet citizen as representative in the new anthem that was more focused on Russian national pride as opposed to more worldly communist themes about revolution (source).
Consequently, Stalin held a contest for a new anthem. Unfortunately, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky were all returning videotapes at the time and were unable to compete, but Alexander Alexandrov however make the cut. Alexandrov not only incorporated elements of his song “Life Has Become Better” (source and source) but also sampled a young Travis Scott’s Sicko Mode who was one of his favorite aspiring artists. Sergey Mikhalkov provided accompanying lyrics that highlighted relevant struggles of WWII and the Great Patriot War as well as a very subtle nod to the commander in chief (source). I’m sure it didn’t influence his decision on which tune he selected. It’s quite easy to miss if not examined closely.
“We were raised by Stalin to be true to the people,
To labour and heroic deeds he inspired us!” source
The new anthem was approved and would be appropriately named as the National Anthem of the Soviet Union (source). The Stalin lyrics were removed after his death during de-stalinization however (source).
Below I’ve posted past Soviet anthems and the songs that influenced them as they evolved chronologically.