Lenin-dal (Lenin Song). Text by Ernő Rossa (text writer, conductor of orchestra, musical educator, composer, 1909-1972) and Miklós Szabó (writer, translator, song writer, opera singer, 1909-1999). Arrangement by Béla András (conductor of orchestra, composer, 1909-1980). Their names is well remembered from the upper corners of the score by anyone who in the 70-80s sang in the school choir such songs like the March of the Militiamen, Song About the Liberation, The Horn is Calling, The Dawn is Coming, or We Are Not Bourgeois. Performed by the “Thread Voice” Children Choir, the “Steel Voice” Men’s Choir and the Concert Brass Band of the Ganz-Mávag Cultural Center, heirs of the century old choir tradition of Kőbánya, Budapest.
|A rablánc a lábon nehéz volt|
De széttörte büszkén a nép
Hát éljen a hős, aki értünk
Feláldozta hű életét,
A hős, ki csak népének élt.
A béklyó a porba lehullott
S az ember a napfénybe néz
A zászlót emeld fel az égig
S Ő járjon előtted, míg élsz
Ő járjon előtted míg élsz.
És gyúlnak a lángok, a földön,
Már árad a fény szerteszét,
Így mindenhol, északon, s délen,
Szabad lesz és boldog a nép,
Szabad lesz és boldog a nép.
Ma milljóknak ajkán egy név zeng,
E név oly nagy és oly dicső,
Nem hervasztja el semmi ármány,
Nem hervasztja el az idő
Nem hervasztja el az idő!
Csak jól fogd a fegyvert a kézbe
Te harcos, te hős nemzedék
Hisz példád Lenin aki érted
Feláldozta hű életét
Feláldozta hű életét!
|The chains were heavy on the feet|
but the people proudly broke them
so long live the hero who for us
has sacrificed his faithful life,
The hero who only lived for his people.
The chains fell in the dust
and men look into the sunshine.
Lift the flag as high as the sky
and let him go in front of you as long as you live
May he go in front of you as long as you live.
And flames are lit all over the earth
and the light is spread all around
so that everywhere, in the north and south
people would be free and happy,
People would be free and happy.
One name is sounding on the lips of millions
and this name is so great and so glorious
that it will not be withered by any intrigue
it will not be withered by the time
It will not be withered by the time.
Take the weapon well in the hand
you heroic militant generation
for your example is Lenin who for you
has sacrificed his faithful life
He has sacrificed his faithful life.
Of course even I, albeit coming from a good Catholic family, sang this song under the direction of our professor of music whom I still regularly meet on the Sunday Mass. Nevertheless, similarly to Fausto Giovannardi, I was not interested in its origin (it is surely the servile adoption of some Soviet original) until I heard the Yiddish movement song In Kamf (In Struggle) on the CD Jews with Horns by Klezmatics.
Klezmatics: In Kamf (3'25"), from the CD: Klezmatics: Jews with Horns (1994)
|Mir vern gehast un getribn|
mir vern gepflogt un farfolgt
un alts nor derfar vayl mir libn
dos oreme shmakhtnde volk.
Mir vern dershosn, gehangen
men roybt undz dos lebn un rekht
derfar vayl mir emes farlangen
un frayheyt far oreme knekht.
Shmit undz in ayzerne keytn
vi blutike khayes undz rayst
ir kent undzer kerper nor teytn
nor keyn mol undzer heylikn gayst.
Ir kent undz dermordn tiranen
naye kemfer vet brengen di tsayt.
un mir kemfn mir kempfn biz vanen
di gantse velt vet vern bafrayt
|We are despised and driven|
We are tortured and persecuted
only because we love
the poor and weak people.
We are shot and hanged,
robbed of our lives and our rights,
for we demand truth and freedom
for downtrodden slaves.
Cast us into iron chains,
tear us apart like bloody beasts;
you can only kill our bodies;
but never our holy spirit.
You can murder us, tyrants,
but time will bring new fighters;
and we fight, we fight until
the entire world is freed.
It did not cost much to check that the Yiddish text was written by the Russian-Jewish-American anarchist poet David Edelstadt, “a fine idealistic nature, a spiritual petrel whose songs of revolt were beloved by every Yiddish-speaking radical” (Emma Goldman). He was born in Kaluga in 1866 and died in Denver, Colorado 1892-ben. At the age of twenty-six, just like the Hungarian revolutionary poet Sándor Petőfi. His poem written in 1889 became a veritable hymn of the American Jewish anarchist and later socialist workers’ movement. Its contemporary (1906) English translation was published by Alice Stone Blackwell in her Songs from Russia.
But how did an American Jewish anarchist song of movement become a Hungarian Communist hymn to Lenin? With full knowledge of the period, there is no doubt that the Hungarian translation could be only made on the basis of a Russian version. But it is absolutely no easy task to find this Russian missing link.
If one simply retranslates the title into Russian and looks for it in the forms “Песня Ленина”, “Песня о Ленине” or “Ленинская песня,” he will not find much useful information. A number of contradicting hypotheses concerning what was the favorite song of Vladimir Iljich, several artistic hommages to the memory of Vladimir Iljich, and one single song in the style of Vysockij, by Yuri Lipmanovich with the same title Lenin Song, but this one… er… it is enough to say that this is absolutely excluded as the original of our song, and not only because it was written in 1997 in Jerusalem. And we find among the first ten hits, of course, also the above video, quod erat demonstrandum.
A search over the Hungarian web is similarly fruitless. The overwhelming majority of the two thousand (!) hits we receive for “Lenin-dal” (Lenin Song) is either the text of the song or its melody to be downloaded in mp3 or in mobile ringtone (!), a fact that seems to retrospectively prove the truth of the old Communist saying Ленин будет жить (Lenin will live). However, none of them says anything about the origins of the song. We only see some light on the Wikipedia where, according to the entry “Mozgalmi dal” (Movement songs), the Lenin-dal (Lenin Song) is identical with the Lenin-gyászinduló (Lenin Funeral March). Let us search for it with this name, then.
Among the hits for Lenin-gyászinduló (Lenin Funeral March) the most informative is the article of the recently deceased verbose writer István Eörsi in the June 9, 2000 edition of the popular literary journal Élet és Irodalom (Life and Literature). With the title In the marriage bed he describes how they sobbed with his wife in the said bed on the morning of March 6, 1953, when the radio announced the death of Stalin. The announcement, he writes, was introduced with the melody of the Lenin Funeral March: “You loved the people and died for it.”
Straight talk. This is not the Lenin Song, but another work better known as Workers’ Funeral March which was usually played at the funerals of the party members until the change of regime of 1989 and even later. The confusion is increased by the fact that in Hungary this song was known with two texts, an earlier and a later one. When and why did they change the text? Was it perhaps after the revolution of 1956 that they saw it more opportune to emphasize the vanished tyranny than the love of the people? That much is sure that, according to the report of the October 7, 1956 edition of the Nők Lapja (Journal of the Women), it was the earlier version that they sang at the “second funeral” of the Communist László Rajk, sentenced to death by his own comrades three years earlier in a show trial.
Szerettétek a népet és meghaltatok,
mert meghal mindenki, ki igazán szeret.
Szerelmet, barátot föláldoztatok,
a földön semmi jóban nem volt részetek.
Sötét börtönök mélyén sorvadtatok,
kínoztak kegyetlen, vad hóhérkarok,
de testetek már szabad földben pihen,
hová a zsarnok keze már nem érhet el.
A zsarnokság dőzsölt és ülte torát,
És százezrek vérével festette bíborát,
De mind közelebbről, már harsant a jel:
Hogy rabságnak vége és a szabadság közel!
S ím eljött az új élet és új világ,
Mely emlékbe foglalja sok hős fiát,
Kik meghaltak érte, most élnek velünk.
S a hősök nagy áldozatát őrzi hű szívünk.
A harcnak már vége és győzött hadunk,
S bánatba temetkezve könnyet hullatunk.
Hogy jogban és fejlődve éljen a nép,
Ezért adta annyi hős cserébe életét.
S ím eljött az új élet és új világ
És most már valóság, mi volt régi vágy.
Hát hirdesse hálánk az emlékteket,
Kik értünk feláldoztátok drága éltetek.
You loved the people and died for it
as everyone dies who really loves.
You have sacrificed lovers and friends
and had no sweet moments here on earth.
You languished in the depth of dark prisons
you were tortured by cruel, fierce executioners
but your body already lays in free earth
where the hands of the tyrants cannot reach you.
Tyranny revelled and banqueted
and painted its purple with the blood of millions
but the signal blared nearer and nearer
that oppression is over and freedom is near.
And look, the new life and new world have come
which remembers of all his heroic sons
who died for it, and who now live with us
and their sacrifice is conserved in our hearts.
The struggle is over, our army has won
and we are overwhelmed by sorrow:
in order the people may live and develop
so many heroes offered their lives.
And look, the new life and new world have come
and reality is what once was only desire.
Let our gratitude sound the praise of your memory
who have sacrificed your precious lives for us.
I do not know why the earlier version is shorter. But the Nők Lapja also testifies that these were the “last lines” of the version in use at that time. And this is how its text figures in the first version of the propaganda novel Vidravas (1983) by Erzsébet Galgóczi, in the nostalgic mythography of the “ballon-clothed one” (a state security officer watching the revolutionary events of October 23, 1956):
Not a very large repertoire – he thought bitterly –, the Hymn, the Song of Kossuth. You have to practice it a bit longer, kids. And he recalled the marches of the “bright winds”: “Hey, our flags are waven by bright winds, their inscription is, long live the freedom!” And then there was the “Knob.” The heels of the boots were resounding at the officers’ school: “Hey, you little knob, you precious one! Hey, you knotty branch of a living tree! Help us now!” “We have been invaded by the fierce anger of the devastating tempest, all the fiery curses of the hell are upon us…” but “The capital will not rule us,” because of “The eternal alliance of the liberated nations, the great work of the great Russia,” where “Above Cherson the fields are covered with grass, only one tomb remained intact, and under this tomb sailor-partisan Zhelezhniak laid down for an eternal break…” “We have been invaded by the fierce anger of the devastating tempest,” but “We stay on the bastions at the outskirts of Madrid,” because “The chains were heavy on the feet, but the people proudly broke them…” “At the beginning of the creation of the earth, hey-hoo, there was no rich and no poor at that time, hey-hoo,” therefore “Red Csepel, lead the struggle, Váci Street, respond to them!…” And the most shivering one: “You loved the people and died for it, as everyone dies who really loves. You’ve sacrificed lovers and friends, and had no sweet moments here on earth. You languished in the depth of dark prisons, were tortured by cruel, fierce executioners; but your body already lays in free earth where the hands of the tyrants cannot reach you.”
The Russian original of this song is easy to find, for it was used for the same function in the Soviet Union as by us in Hungary. In Russian it is simply called Funeral March. Its text was established around 1870-80 with the combination of two poems by the revolutionary poet A. Arkhangelsky (Amos Anton Aleksandrovich). Its tune, however, is much older. The earliest known version of it was sung with the poem written in 1826 by Ivan Ivanovich Kozlov (1779-1840) on the funerals of the British general John Moore: “Не бил барабан перед смутным полком, когда мы вождя хоронили…” (No drum rolled in front of the stunned army when we were burying the leader…). This song became popular with Kozlov’s text among the Cossacks during the times of the Caucasian wars (1816-1864), and it was occasionally sung with this text even in WWII.
However, with the text of Arkhangelsky the song became the accepted funeral march of the workers’ movement. It is sung by Fedya Mazin at the peak of Gorki’s novel The mother, at the head of the funeral procession which turns into a demonstration. In the Hungarian translation of the novel, made after the Communist takeover, the song obviously figures with the text of the “earlier version,” which is an absolutely inaccurate rendition of the Russian original. And after the general adoption of the “later version” of the march, nobody cared to change the text in the novel, thus only the most experienced old revolutionaries can identify the song mentioned in The mother with the one otherwise well known, if anybody readys The mother any more.
A peculiarly odd thing about it is that perhaps Lenin was the only one who was not buried with this so-called “Lenin Funeral March,” as for his funerals a special music was written by the leading composer of the period Vladimir Yakovlevich Vulfman with the title Funeral March for the death of V. I. Ulyanov-Lenin. The mythical circumstances of its composition (on hearing the news of Lenin’s death, he was caught by a tormenting pain, and then he kept composing for two day and two nights without a break) were related by himself in an 1974 number of the Sovietskaya Muzika. The site “Klamurke” which publishes his relation, promises in a footnote that they will also tell about the real circumstances of the composition of the work. We are eagerly looking forward to it.
The following translation of the original text of the original Funeral March is an internet premier, I think. I at least have not found it in any other language than Russian.
Похоронный марш (Funeral March), c. 1870-80 (3'48")
|Вы жертвою пали в борьбе роковой|
Любви беззаветной к народу,
Вы отдали всё, что могли, за него,
За честь его, жизнь и свободу!
Порой изнывали по тюрьмам сырым,
Свой суд беспощадный над вами
Враги-палачи уж давно изрекли,
И шли вы, гремя кандалами.
Идете, усталые, цепью гремя,
Закованы руки и ноги,
Спокойно и гордо свой взор устремля
Вперед по пустынной дороге.
Нагрелися цепи от знойных лучей
И в тело впилися змеями.
И каплет на землю горячая кровь
Из ран, растравленных цепями.
А деспот пирует в роскошном дворце,
Тревогу вином заливая,
Но грозные буквы давно на стене
Уж чертит рука роковая!
Настанет пора – и проснется народ,
Великий, могучий, свободный!
Прощайте же, братья, вы честно прошли
Свой доблестный путь, благородный!
|You fell victim in the fatal combat|
out of altruistic love toward the people
you gave them whatever you could
to its honor, life and freedom.
You have languished for long in wet prisons,
the hostile executioners have long pronounced
their sentence on you,
and you went, all in chains.
You go exhausted, in chains,
with irons on your head and feet,
looking with calm and proud eyes
in front of you on the solitary way.
The irons heated by the rays of the sun
bite into your body like snakes
and hot blood falls down on earth
from the wounds rubbed out by them
And the tyrant feasts in his court
easing his fear with wine
but the terrible letters on the wall
have long been written by that fatal hand.
The time will come when the people stands up,
the powerful, strong and free people.
Good bye, brothers, you have with honor
completed your heroic, noble way.
A postcard with the portrait of the Eser revolutionary Mariya Spiridonova, and with the
handwritten text of the Funeral March on its back side. Considering its modernized
post-Revolution orthography, the text already refers to the Soviet
prisons where Spiridonova also died in 1941.
handwritten text of the Funeral March on its back side. Considering its modernized
post-Revolution orthography, the text already refers to the Soviet
prisons where Spiridonova also died in 1941.
This melody was also used by Shostakovich in the third (“In memoriam”) movement of his 11th Symphony (“The Year of 1905”), officially in memory of the victims of the Russian revolution of 1905, while unofficially – according to his wife and friends – of those of the Hungarian revolution of 1956. As officially the whole symphony was composed on the 50th anniversary of the revolution of 1905, while according to the interpretation spreading among the artists of Moscow rather on the 50th birthday of Shostakovich himself, as “the requiem of a lost generation”. The most beautiful feature of this well-known “I’m both inside and outside” play of the Communist times – through which the dissenter could fulfill at once the expectations of the regime and of the friends – is that nobody knows which interpretation was the real one, if any of them. A fact is that Shostakovich received for this work the Lenin prize, the greatest Soviet award.
Dmitri Shostakovich: 11th Symphony (1957), 3rd (“In memoriam”) movement (10'29"). The Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra is directed by Kirill Kondrashin, 1973. I have chosen this old Melodiya recording with Kondrashin, friend of Shostakovich and after 1960 for 15 years the leading director of orchestra in Moscow, because this emphasizes the melody of the theme much more song-like than the later recordings.
Interestingly, a very similar funeral march motif is used also by Chopin in the third movement – written separately and before the other two ones – of his second Piano Sonata in B-flat minor, Op. 35. It is absolutely not impossible that he also used the same melody, by that time already known all over Russia – thus also in the Warsaw Grandduchy. That much is sure that after the decline of the fashion of the Funeral March, the Soviet secretary-generals were given the address at their funerals with this movement, arranged to orchestra with the title Marche funèbre. Around 1984 three such occasions followed each other in a row, and with this the melody of the Marche funèbre was engraved into the memory of a whole generation.
The Marche funèbre, obviously, has no text, but my former Russian students who belonged to this generation usually hummed it with the text “в детском саду скоро будет новый год. Будет много мяса, будет много хлеба,” that is, “In the kindergarten soon there will be New Year. There will be much meat, there will be much bread.” The second verse was sometimes also heard like “Будет вам варенье, будет вам печень” (There will be jam, there will be liver), “Будем есть конфеты, пряники, печенья” (We will eat candies, biscuits, cakes) or – more realistically – “будут подарки, будет хоровод” (there will be some gifts, there will be round dance).
After the publication of the post we received from Misha Shauli the textual version they used to song with this melody in their childhood:
Ту-104 - хороший самолёт,
Ту-104 - надёжный самолёт.
Будет вам удобно,
Ту-104 всех туда нас довезёт.
TU-104 is a good airplane,
TU-104 is a reliable airplane
it will be comfortable,
quick and economic,
it will take us all there.
The last verse, specifies Misha, is a reference to the philosophical expression все там будем, “once we will be all there”, usually mentioned in connection with the cemetery.
I apologize for the bizarre background image of the following video of the Marche funèbre, but I could not find any better. You cannot imagine how hard it is to find an orchestral version of this movement nowadays as its fashion has also passed away, and everyone plays it on solo piano, as Chopin originally wrote it.
Finally I was led to the Russian original of the Lenin Song by the same researcher’s luck as to the In Kamf. I read in the Songs for anarchist and underground movements on the page dedicated to the Funeral March: “This is one of the two best known funeral marches of the Russian revolutionary movement. The other is the Zamuchen tyazholoy nevoley,” that is, Languished in the hard captivity. For mere curiosity, I also checked the page of that song, and… it was the one I was looking for. This is how the career of a research which merited a much longer arch was cruelly short-circuited.
That song bears the title Revolutionary funeral march and, similarly to the Funeral March, it was originally written for the obituaries of a revolutionary martyr. This was further developed into an ode of Lenin by the ambitious Hungarian text writers who thus, in their zeal to overfulfill the project, created the hagiographic absurd, the idea of the martyr who died for natural reasons in his own bed.
Револуционный труарный марш (Revolutionary funeral march), 1876 (5'27")
|Замучен тяжелой неволей,|
Ты славною смертью почил...
В борьбе за народное дело
Ты голову честно сложил…
Служил ты недолго, но честно
Для блага родимой земли…
И мы, твои братья по делу,
Тебя на кладбище снесли.
Наш враг над тобой не глумился…
Кругом тебя были свои…
Мы сами, родимый, закрыли
Орлиные очи твои.
Не горе нам душу давило,
Не слезы блистали в очах,
Когда мы, прощаясь с тобою,
Землей засыпали твой прах.
Нет, злоба нас только душила!
Мы к битве с врагами рвались
И мстить за тебя беспощадно
Над прахом твоим поклялись!
С тобою одна нам дорога;
Как ты, мы по тюрьмам сгнием.
Как ты, для народного дела
Мы головы наши снесем.
Как ты, мы, быть может, послужим
Лишь почвой для новых людей,
Лишь грозным пророчеством новых,
Грядущих и доблестных дней.
Но знаем, как знал ты, родимый,
Что скоро из наших костей
Подымется мститель суровый
И будет он нас посильней!
|Languished in the hard captivity|
you died a glorious death.
In the battle fought for the case of the people
you put down your head with honor.
You served your native land
not for long time, but with full honor
and we, your brothers in the case
accompanied you to the cemetery.
Our enemy did not mock at you,
your ones were around you:
we ourselves closed down, brother,
your blue eyes.
No mourning oppressed our souls
no tears sat in our eyes
when saying farewell to you
gave over your body to the earth.
No, we were only fuelled by anger
to fight against our enemy again
and we swore above your body
to revenge ourselves on you.
Our way is the same as yours,
as you, we also languish in prisons
and as you, we also put down
our heads for the case of the people.
Perhaps as you, we will also only
set an exampe to new heroes
telling a terrible prophecy
about new, heroic days to come.
But we know, as you knew, brother
that soon from our bones
a new, tougher revenger will spring
who will be much stronger than us.
The identity of the two songs which today already must be investigated in such a tortuous way, some decades ago seems to have been widely known. At least in Yuri Trifonov’s novel Старик (The old man) of 1976, in the passage where, during the February revolution of 1917, the unsatisfied crowd sings the Revolutionary Funeral March, the Hungarian translation of 1980 changes this reference for the “Lenin Song”, considered as its Hungarian equivalent, thus unconsciously predating by several years the revolutionary cult of Lenin:
“идем дальше, по Литейному мосту, мимо сгоревшей «предварилки», красные и черные флаги вывешены на домах, на Невском стоим часа два, отовсюду поют «Вечную память» и «Вы жертвою пали…»”
“átmegyünk a Lityejnij-hídon, majd a leégett vizsgálati fogház mellett; a házakon vörös és fekete zászlók, a Nyevszkij proszpekten két órát állunk, mindenütt a Munkás gyászindulót és a Rabláncot éneklik…”
(“we cross the Liteiny Bridge, then pass the burned down detention jail. Red and black flags on every house. On the Nevsky Prospect we stand for two hours, they sing everywhere the Funeral March and the Revolutionary Funeral March [in the Hungarian version: The chains were heavy, that is, the Lenin Song])…”
The Russian text was written by Grigori Aleksandrovich Machtet (1852-1901) for the funerals of his narodnik comrade, the student P. F. Chernisev who died in 1876 in tuberculose in the prison of Saint-Petersbourg. His funerals happened amidst the first, enormous peaceful demonstration of the narodnik revolutionary movement Zemlya i volya (Earth and freedom), and they made popular this song all over Russia. It has maintained its popularity even after 1917 when narodniks as a competition were extirpated among the first ones by the new Bolshevik power. Thus, taken into account the dates, the song came to Edelstadt in America from the narodniks, and not vice versa: its story is thus similar also in this respect to the discovery of Fausto Giovannardi. The song was also translated into German the 1920s by Ernst Busch (with a text faithful to the original), and it became a popular workers’ movement song in Germany. Shostakovich too used it in his 8th string quartet written in 1960 during the weeks spent by him in Berlin.
Im Kerker zu Tode gemartert. German text and voice: Ernst Busch (2'26")
I could not discover the roots of the melody of this march. My sources do not mention either its author or its precedences. Nevertheless, perhaps I managed to catch a glimpse of it as at the beginning of the 1800s it gleamed on the surface for some seconds, like a trout.
Beethoven wrote his string quartets no. 7-9 (Op. 59) in 1808 on the commission of the Viennese Russian ambassador Count Andreas Kirillovich Razumofsky. We know that Beethoven weaved into the third, “Allegretto” movement of the 8th quartet a “Russian theme” as a hommage to his patron. I have always been curious what this theme might have been. Now, listening again to the movement, I find it quite possible that one can hear in it a strongly stylized version of the Revolutionary funeral march – In Kamf – Im Kerker zu Tode gemartert – Lenin-dal.
Beethoven: 8th e minor “Razumofsky” string quartet, 3rd “Allegretto” movement, Op. 59 (6'33"). Juilliard String Quartet (2002)
This is then the story how the Lenin Song was created, out of the song expropriated from the narodniks, with the common effort of composers, authors, text writers, journalists, and the whole society singing it independently of their conviction. Its microhistory also illustrates how each one contributed, in the measure of their forces, to the creation and maintenance of the regime.