Sacred War

"The Motherland Calls"
Irakli Toidze, “The Motherland Calls” (1941)

The titanic struggle between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia that commenced on 22 June 1941 determined the fate of Europe. It also marked a major turning point in the Culture and Civilization of Stalinism. Overnight the Soviet Union was transformed from abettor and de facto ally of Adolf Hitler’s murderous regime into a victim of Nazi depredation and tyranny. Party leaders and propagandists quickly moved to cast the conflict as battle of “good” versus “evil.” Given the occupying German army’s beastial behavior the claim was not without cause (given the Soviet state’s sordid treatment of its own soldiers and citizens it was also not without irony).

Nowhere was the county’s collective sense of rage and righteousness better expressed than in “Sacred War” a rousing martial hymn penned by the poet and lyricist Vasily Lebedev-Kumach and set to music by Aleksandr Aleksandrov, founder of the Red Army Ensemble. Written the day after the invasion and rushed onto radio to bolster morale, “Sacred War” remains to this day the song most closely associated with the country’s life-or-death struggle against German Nazism.

Below is a video clip of the Red Army Ensemble performance (conducted by Aleksandrov) that appeared in the wartime production Songs for the Front (1942). It is followed by the lyrics to the song along with transliterated Russian text and an English translation.

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