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7 Favorite Russian Military Songs in Honor of May 9th, Victory Day

Classic songs from Russia's greatest struggle

Editor's note: It is hard to convey to Western readers how emotionally powerful Victory Day is in Russia. It celebrates the central national narrative of the Russian State, and is BY FAR the most popular secular holiday of the year. The only one to match it in importance is Easter, the main religious holiday.

Put aside historical arguments around WW2 for a day, and get a taste of how Russians mark, what is for them, a quasi-religious memory.

The massive, awe-inspiring military parade, the bemedalled grandfatherly veterans, and in recent years, the marching of millions of Russians across the country with portraits of their ancestors who fought in the war (The Immortal Regiment), is truly stupendous. If you ever have a chance to be in Russia on May 9, don't miss the opportunity. Russians are the world champs in pageantry, and May 9 is when they pull out all the stops. It is a heart stopping, tear-jerking spectacle - all day long.

RI is publishing selected articles today from our archives about WW2 as Russia takes the day off to remember this extraordinary historical event.

This article originally appeared in The Moscow Times

Russia will commemorate 70 years since the Allied victory over Nazi Germany this Saturday, May 9. The day will be marked by a huge parade through the center of Moscow, involving some 200 military vehicles along with 150 aircraft.

A former Soviet serviceman takes part in celebrations to mark Victory day in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, May 9, 2014.

Another way in which Russian people remember the Great Patriotic War is through songs. In the run-up to Saturday, The Moscow Times has compiled a list of the most popular military songs.

1. Cranes / Zhuravli

"It sometimes seems to me that all the soldiers,

Who never returned from bloody battlefields,

Do not lie in the ground where they fell,

But turned into white crane."

For the full lyrics (in Russian) click here.

This famous song performed by Soviet actor and singer Mark Bernes originally came from a poem by Dagestani poet Rasul Gamzatov, who wrote it in his native Avar language in 1968.

The text was translated into Russian by poet-translator Naum Grebnev and published in the "Novy Mir" (New World) literary magazine later that same year.

After reading the poem, Bernes phoned Grebnev and together they adapted the lyrics for a song that they dedicated to the soldiers who died during the Great Patriotic War.

2. Dark Is The Night / Tyomnaya Noch

"Dark is the night, only bullets whistle in the steppe,

Only wind wails through the wires, stars dimly twinkle.

In this dark night, I know that you, darling, cannot sleep

And secretly wipe your tears away near the crib."

For the full lyrics (in Russian) click here.

The song was originally performed by Mark Bernes in the 1943 war film "Two Soldiers."

In the film, Bernes plays a soldier who thinks about his wife and young baby at night while singing "Dark Is The Night."

A Polish version of the song was popularized by singer Vera Gran in the 1960s and can be found here.

3. Oh, The Roads... / Ekh, Dorogi...

"Oh, the roads… dust and fog,

Cold, dismay, and wild grass of the steppe…

Shot will breaks out, raven circling,

Your friend in the wild grass is lying lifeless."

For the full lyrics (in Russian) click here.

The song was written a few months after the Great Patriotic War ended by Soviet composer and conductor Anatoly Novikov, with lyrics supplied by Lev Oshanin.

Director Sergei Yutkevich had commissioned the song for a theatrical performance on November 7 called "Victorious Spring," which is where "Oh, the Roads…" was first performed to the public.

"Oh, The Roads" recalls the hardships that the population experienced and endured throughout the course of the war.

Read the rest of this article. 

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