The story of “Katyusha”

November 25, 2020


Written by Mustafa Ali

One of the most famous music composers during the Great Patriotic War (the Russian term for the second World War), Matvei Isaakovich Blanter, was born and raised in the town of Pochep during the reign of the Russian Empire. His father was a Jewish craftsman, and his uncle, Solomon Mikhoels, was an actor, director, and co-founder of the Moscow State Jewish Theater.

Matvei studied the musical arts in Kursk and Moscow, including piano, violin, and composition. In his early career, Blanter was known for his light dance and jazz songs. After the rise of Stalin, however, his vocation took a turn. The cultural environment of Russia became more ideologically strict. The musician began to produce work that was used as propaganda for the Soviet Union. A perfect example of this is the song “Stalin is Our Battle-Glory.” He wrote other military songs during the period before WWII.

By far, the most famous piece he ever wrote was “Katyusha.” The folk song is both upbeat in its character as well as militaristic in nature. The song represents a woman named Katyusha, who yarns for the love of her life, serving on the Soviet border. The woman sends her song to the young soldier to remind him of his lover and help him protect the Motherland, while Katyusha will preserve the love and bond between them. It gained fame and popularity during WWII. It became an inspiration to participate in the war effort against Nazi Germany, especially after Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of Soviet Russia. The song was played by female students from the Soviet Industrial school in Moscow, offering a farewell to soldiers going to the front against the Nazi regime. It became an international hit, played by many singers in many nations, including Italy, where it became a favorite of Italian partisans fighting against both German and Italian Fascists in Italy.

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