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The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Moscow
"Few like or even know the current tune"
 real 56k

Listen to
Glinka's Patriotic Song
 real 28k

Listen to
the Soviet national anthem 1943-91
 real 28k

Friday, 8 December, 2000, 15:18 GMT
Duma approves Soviet anthem
Communist demonstrators
Communists favour the red flag and Soviet anthem
The lower house of the Russian parliament has voted to bring back the tune of the old Soviet national anthem as the new Russian anthem.

The Duma overwhelmingly approved the bill, by 381 votes to 51. It will now go to the upper house, the Federation Council for final approval.

Duma deputies view exhibition of symbols
The Duma voted to retain the double-headed eagle
The bill will restore the anthem's music by Aleksandr Aleksandrov but without the original text, which includes praise of Lenin.

The Duma also voted to keep the tsarist double-headed eagle as the country's coat of arms, and the pre-revolutionary white, red and blue tricolour, which has served as the Russian flag since the fall of communism.

And it voted to restore the red flag as the symbol of the Russian armed forces.

President Vladimir Putin had asked the Duma to resolve the issue quickly by giving the bills three readings in the space of one morning.

Strong criticism

A statement by the liberal Yabloko faction, which voted against the bill, said that the measure "deepened the schism in society".

President Putin and ex-President Yeltsin
Yeltsin (right) and his chosen successor
And former Russian President Boris Yeltsin attacked Mr Putin for backing the bill, in what is said to be the first public criticism of the man he promoted to be his successor.

But supporters of the bill deny that it will do any harm.

"Adopting the music of the anthem of the Soviet Union as the main song of the Russian Federation can in no way be seen as compromising Russian statehood or an insult to our democracy," Communist deputy and former Soviet parliament speaker Anatoly Lukyanov was quoted as saying during the session.

But what about the tune?

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia ditched the anthem and replaced it with Patriotic Song, by the 19th-century Russian composer Mikhail Glinka.

But the lack of words to the Glinka tune provoked complaints last summer from the Spartak Moscow football team that it had nothing suitable to belt out before matches.


The president of a country should not blindly follow the mood of the people

Boris Yeltsin
The old Soviet anthem, by contrast, is a stirring, singable melody.

It was written during the dark days of World War II, as Red Army troops began to turn the tables on the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front.

Many older Russians associate the anthem more with the victory over Hitler than with communist oppression.

Others associate it with Soviet-era sports victories and other achievements.

Putin unmoved

But Mr Yeltsin disagreed.

"My only association with the old anthem is party congresses and conferences that consolidated the power of the party's bureaucrats," he said.

Mr Yeltsin told the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper that he was "categorically" against its revival, despite opinion polls showing that many Russians favoured this.

"The president of a country should not blindly follow the mood of the people," he said. "On the contrary, it is up to him to actively influence it".

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See also:

08 Dec 00 | Europe
New anthem reopens old wounds
04 Dec 00 | Europe
Soviet anthem set for comeback
01 Dec 00 | Media reports
Anthems out of tune with people
23 Jul 00 | Europe
Russians rule anthem offside
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