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Official website of the Spasskaya Tower International Military Music Festival
18 May 2020

The Enemy Must Remember Russia’s Katusha For Good

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Katusha is probably one of the most internationally recognized songs of Russia. Composed by Matvey Blanter to the lyrics of Mikhail Isakovskiy, this popular song is regarded as an unofficial symbol of the Great Patriotic War.

The first lines saw light in the early 1938. Mikhail Isakovskiy swiftly wrote the first two four-liners, but the then the work came to a standstill.

“I didn’t know what to do next with my Katusha who I made to „walk out to the steep riverside“ and sing a song”.

Later, in spring, Isakovskiy went to the Pravda (newspaper) editorial office where he met Matvey Blanter. The composer asked the author whether he had any poems fit to become a song. Then Isakovskiy suggested his new acquittance to use the unfinished lines about Katusha.

In summer Isakovskiy and Blanter met again. The composer revealed that he had already written the music and was waiting for the lyrics to be completed. Isakovskiy promised to go back to work, but all was against him.

In another month Isakovskiy travelled to Yalta where Blanter found him. The composer told his colleague that the newly established USSR State Jazz Band led by Victor Knushnevitskiy was planning to perform Katusha at their debut concert, but the song had to be finished in no time.

In a few days the author handed Blanter several variants of the final lines to complete the poem, but suggested paying attention to only one of them. And it was the very same variant that has already caught Blanter’s attention.

Thus, in November 1938, almost a year later, Katusha made its debut on a big stage being performed by the USSR State Jazz Band. We don’t know for sure who was the first singer to perform the song. Some say it was Vera Krasovitskaya, Vsevolod Tyutyunnik and Georgiy Vinogradov, while others state it was Valentina Batisheva.

In 1939 the Leningrad factory issued a gramophone record, the cover told Katusha performed by Valentina Batisheva, Vsevolod Tyutyunnik and Pavel Mikhailov.

According to some sources, when the State Jazz Band was getting ready for the concert Lidya Ruslanova, one of the greatest Russian singers of all times, heard Katusha. She didn’t have the score, but she remembered the song and performed it in the very same hall several hours later. Ruslanova included the song into her repertoire and always performed it at her concerts.

Katusha has been translated to different language as well as acquired various interpretations all over the world. Thus, in Greece Katusha is the anthem of the National Liberation Front (EAM), while in Italy the song is known under the title of Catarina and Fischia il Vento. In Israel it got the name Katushka (later it was translated into French under the name of Casatschok and performed by singer Rika Zarai, the Italian and German versions were sung by Dalida).
Katusha is also very popular among the participants of the Spasskaya Tower International Military Music Festival, that have countless times performed it on the cobblestones of Red Square.