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"Katyusha," also transliterated "Katusha" or "Katjusha," (Russian: Катю́ша - Little Catherine) is a Russian wartime song composed in 1938 by Matvei Blanter with lyrics from Mikhail Isakovsky. It gained fame during World War II as an inspiration to defend one's land from the enemy.
The song combines elements of the heroic, upbeat battle song and of a peasant song depicting a girl longing for her absent beau. Standing on a high riverbank, a young woman, Katyusha, sings of her beloved (compared to "a gray eagle of the steppes"), who is a soldier serving on the border far away. The theme of the song is that the soldier will protect the Motherland and its people while his girl will preserve their love. While the song is joyful and filled with the imagery of a fertile, blooming land, it also conveys the sense that the motherland is under threat.
"Katyusha" was first sung by female students from a Russian industrial school in Moscow to bid farewell to Russian soldiers going on the battle front against Nazi Germany in July 1941. It quickly became popular throughout the USSR. Its first official performance was by Valentina Batishcheva in the Column Hall of Moscow's House of the Unions. Later it was performed by Lidiya Ruslanova, Georgi Vinogradov, Eduard Khil, Anna German, Ivan Rebroff, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Iosif Kobzon, countertenor Vitas, and other singers. "Katyusha" is part of the repertoire of the Alexandrov Ensemble.
Katyusha is a diminutive form of the female name Ekaterina (Katherine). The song is the source of the nickname of the BM-8, BM-13, and BM-31 "Katyusha" rocket launchers that were used by the Red Army in World War II.
In other languages
In 1943, Italy, until then a member of the Axis, joined the Allies. During the next two years, Italian partisans fought against German forces in Italy and Italian Fascists. Felice Cascione wrote Italian lyrics for "Katyusha." His adaptation, "Fischia il vento" ("The wind blows"), became one of the most famous partisan anthems, along with "Bella ciao" and "La Brigata Garibaldi".
During the Greek Civil War (1946–1949), Greek partisans who had also fought against the German invasion in 1941, wrote their version of "Katyusha" named "The hymn of EAM" ("Ο ύμνος του ΕΑΜ"). This adaptation was recorded much later by Thanos Mikroutsikos and sung by Maria Dimitriadi.
Rika Zarai sang a French adaptation of "Katyusha," under the name Casatschok. Nat King Cole recorded a song with the same melody called "Katusha." Karel Gott recorded a German version titled "Katjuscha." In 1969 the melody of Katyusha was used as base for the song Casatchok (a free transliteration of the Cyrillic Казачок), sung by Dori Ghezzi.
In popular culture
- The song was featured as the background theme music for the USSR level of the NES video game Super Dodgeball. A slightly more upbeat-dance version was featured in the game The Next Tetris.
- The Soviet figure skaters Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov performed their exhibition dance using this song at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Olga Kapranova used a remixed version of "Katyusha," composed by DJ Rasputin, for her ribbon routine at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
- The song also appears in the films The Deer Hunter and Downfall.
- The 2012 anime Girls und Panzer features the vocal version of this song in contrast to its usual instrumental covers. Differences in copyright law between Japan and the US prevented the song from being used in the English localization, being replaced by another famous Russian song, Korobeiniki.
- The band Abney Park recorded a version of the song on their album "The Circus At the End of the World."