Music Video Wednesday: Red Army Choir, “Varshavyanka”


May 27, 2015

Music Video Wednesday: Red Army Choir, “Varshavyanka”

By J.Hawk

This is a weekly Fort Russ feature. To view other editions, click on the Music Video Wednesday tab above the title. 

This is one of those songs that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it, but especially when it’s performed by an ensemble as skilled as the Red Army Choir. I’ve known this song since a pretty early age, and of course I learned it in the original Polish as it originated with Polish Socialist revolutionaries in the late 19th century and was subsequently adopted by the Russian revolutionaries. Listening to it these days I can’t help but reflect on how far off the rails the “European project” has gone. One of the things the Socialist governments did very well was foster a sense of togetherness, not only on the national but even on the international scale. The official heroes of every country were the class warriors, the revolutionaries, whose enemies were not neighboring nations but their own, homegrown oligarchies. This went a long way toward establishing a sense of community, of shared interests, among all the nations of Eastern Europe.

These days, by contrast, the official heroes are all nationalists, the Pilsudskis, the Horthys, the Antonescus, the Banderas of the 1920s and 1930s whose main claim to fame was eradicating ethnic minorities and pushing one’s country’s borders deeper onto someone else’s land. EU has turned a blind eye on all that for the last two and a half decades, apparently thinking this is just some childhood disease of post-communist societies that will surely pass as EU’s economic miracle takes hold. 

But these days the economic miracle has given way to an economic nightmare and the childhood disease is rapidly mutating into a serious and contagious illness with a high mortality rate, a veritable political Ebola. Ukraine has succumbed and is already in its terminal stage, the Baltic States are well on their way, and now Poland, which brought Varshavyanka into the world, seems to be the next on the list.

Dark forces are oppressing us
In the battle that we were destined for
Unknown fates are awaiting us.
But we will proudly and boldly raise
The banner of the workers’ struggle
The banner of the great battle of all the peoples
For a better world and the holy freedom.


To a battle bloody
Holy and just
March, march forward
Working people.
Must the worker still starve nowadays ?
Brothers, shall we keep silent ?
Can the sight of the gallows
Frighten the young eyes of our brothers at arms ?
In the great battle don’t let us die without leaving a trace behind
Those who have fallen in honor for an idea
Their names in our victory songs
Shall become sacred to millions of people.
We loathe the tyrants’ crowns
We deem that chains turn the people into a martyr
The thrones are covered with the blood of the peoples
In their own blown we shall redden our enemies.
A ferocious death is awaiting all the enemies
All the parasites of the working classes
Vengeance and death for all the plutocratic tsars
The solemn hour of victory is near.

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