Saturday Night Music: Farewell of the Slavic Woman

Okay, so it’s actually Sunday where I am right now. But it’s still Saturday in other parts of the country, so the title of this post is completely valid.

I have a certain Russian song stuck in my head, and therefore I will do my best to get it stuck in yours as well. Plus I want to talk about this song because it was written one hundred years ago, way back in 1912. In the whole scheme of things, one hundred years is not so long ago, but sometimes it can be interesting to reflect on how much the world has changed since 1912. Just think, in 1912, the two world wars had not happened, the Russian Empire still existed and was ruled by Tsar Nicholas II, the United States was not yet a superpower, and women in the United States were not yet allowed to vote.

But I digress – it’s the historian in me coming out! More about this Russian song below the jump.

The song is called Прощание славянки [Farewell of the Slavic woman] and the title is a lot more succinct and less awkward-sounding than in English. There are actually four versions of the song’s lyrics – various writers have written different words to the same melody, which was composed in 1912. A man named Vasily Ivanovich Agapkin wrote this after the First Balkan War (1912-13), which was a conflict (if I’m not mistaken) between Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece on one side, and the Ottoman Empire on the other.

Anyway, Agapkin wrote the first version in honor of Slavic women accompanying their husbands to the First Balkan War. You can read the lyrics on Wikipedia in English and Russian. One of the more popular versions was written by Vladimir Lazarev in 1984 (lyrics here). A video description on YouTube claims that Farewell of the Slavic Woman was the unofficial anthem of Admiral Kolchak’s White Army, something I have not heard before (but I must investigate this, as Kolchak and his army are of interest to me).

However, my favorite version is the World War II version, especially the one sung by the Red Army Choir. (Seriously, the Red Army Choir, properly called the Alexandrov Ensemble, is amazing. Their soloists are always excellent and they have produced many great versions of Russian songs over the years. If you’re studying Russian, look them up and sing along – it’ll help your pronunciation and it’s fun!)

Here’s a video version of the song, performed by the Red Army Choir.

If you’re interested, here are the lyrics, in English and the original Russian.

This march would not quiet at the train stations
When the enemy barred the horizon
To this march our fathers, in smoke filled cars,
Were carried by trains to the front.

He defended Moscow in ’41
In ’45 he marched on Berlin
As a Soldier he achieved victory
Over the course of trying years

And if to a crusade
The country calls
Beyond the edge of our Motherland
We will all go to holy battle

They sound off in the fields of bread
My fatherland is on the move!
To the height of joy
Through all difficulties —
By the way of peace and labor!

They sound off in the fields of bread
My fatherland is on the move!
To the height of joy
Through all difficulties —
Dear is peace and labor!


Original Russian

Этот марш не смолкал на перронах
когда враг заслонял горизонт.
С ним отцов наших в дымных вагонах
Поезда увозили на фронт.

Он Москву отстоял в сорок первом,
В сорок пятом шагал на Берлин,
Он солдатом прошел до Победы
По дорогам нелегких годин.

И если в поход
Страна позовет
За край наш родной
Мы все пойдем в священный бой! (2 pаза)

Шумят в полях хлеба.
Шагает Отчизна моя
К высотам счастья,
Сквозь все ненастья —
Дорогой мира и труда.

К высотам счастья,
Сквозь все ненастья —
Дорогой мира и труда.