Sergei Mikhalov, the writer of the Soviet Union’s national anthem under Josef Stalin who later reworked the lyrics for a new generation of Russians under Vladimir Putin, has died aged 96.
Last year the Russian prime minister awarded him the order of St Andrew – the country’s highest accolade – for his services to literature. Set to music by Alexander Alexandrov, the anthem was dedicated to the might of the Soviet Union and victorious battles to come. The verses were ditched in the ’50s when Nikita Krushchev launched his de-Stalinisation campaign. The hymn was then played without words until the ’70s when Mikhalov rewrote it to feature the founder of the Soviet state, Vladimir Lenin. After the collapse of Communism Russia adopted a new tune but no lyrics were chosen until 2000, when Putin, then a newly elected president decided to revive the Soviet era refrain. It was popular move with conservatives but liberals detested it as a symbol of Stalin’s tyranny. Mikhalov was asked to rework the anthem and references to “the great and powerful Soviet Union” and Stalin’s guidance of the nation on the path to Communism were replaced with praise of “God-given” Russia. Even so older Russians can still be seen singing the original Mikhalov verses at official ceremonies. Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev have sent their condolences to Mikhalov’s family.