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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

This Hymn Is Supposed To Move Us?

It seems odd that after spending so much time and energy debating which music to choose as the national anthem, Russia proceeded to adopt lyrics with hardly any public discussion at all. Rather than agonizing over what sort of message the country wanted to send with the words to its official hymn, the government just covered over the obvious ideological anachronisms in the Soviet anthem with some frankly banal patches.

"O Party of Lenin, the strength of the people/ To Communism’s triumph lead us on" has metamorphosed into "Popular wisdom given by our forebears/ Be glorious, our country! We are proud of you!"

What are we to make of the line "You are unique in the world, one of a kind"? Sounds like something that an "anthem-generating" computer program might come up with.

Sadly, the new lyrics merely confirm that Russia is a country that has lost its vision and sense of self.

And this is really a shame. Russia had a unique opportunity to enter the 21st century with an anthem that showed it had learned something from the trials of the 20th century. It could have produced lyrics that moved beyond the glorification of the state and the government and actually inspired people to be proud of their country.

One of the best lines to come out of Hollywood in recent years came when Jack Nicholson complimented Helen Hunt in "As Good As It Gets" by telling her, "You make me want to be a better man." At the risk of trivializing a serious issue, we would argue that a modern national anthem should make us want to be better citizens. Such a message would serve Russia very well now.

Russia might have taken inspiration, for instance, from Western protest singers of the 1960s. Accused of being unpatriotic, many of them countered by writing powerful songs that expressed both a love of one’s country and a commitment to improving it.

Take, for instance, "The Power and the Glory" by Phil Ochs. In traditional anthem style, Ochs’ chorus runs, "Here is a land full of power and glory/ Beauty that words cannot recall." But the real punch comes in the final verse:

Yet she’s only as rich as the poorest of her poor
Only as free as the padlocked prison door
Only as strong as our love for this land
Only as tall as we stand.

Russia, it seems, has missed its chance to adopt an anthem that would make us stand tall.