On the Hills of Manchuria
"On the hills of Manchuria" (Russian: На сопках Маньчжурии, Na sopkah Manchzhurii) is a haunting waltz (i.e. a waltz composed of mostly minor notes and sub-4th octave arrangements) composed in 1906 by Ilya Alekseevich Shatrov.
The original title of the waltz was "The Mokshansky Regiment on the Hills of Manchuria" and referred to an incident during the Battle of Mukden, the disastrous final land battle of the Russo-Japanese War, when the Mokshansky Infantry Regiment was encircled by Japanese forces for 11 days, during which it sustained considerable casualties. Shatrov served in the regiment as bandmaster and composed the tune on returning from the war. While the regiment was stationed in Samara in 1906, he made the acquaintance of Oskar Knaube (1866-1920), a local music shop owner, who helped the composer to publish his work and later acquired ownership of it.
On the Hills of Manchuria achieved colossal success and Knaube boasted of having published some 82 different editions of the piece. Soon after its publication, the poet Stepan Petrov, better known by the pen-name of Skitalets, provided the lyrics which contributed to its wider success. The original words concern fallen soldiers lying in their graves in Manchuria, but alternative words were adapted to the tune later, especially during Second World War.
During the 1990s the song was featured in two films. In Nikita Mikhalkov's Urga Close to Eden (1991), the drunken lorry driver Sergei has the notes tattooed on his back and later sings the song in a nightclub, with the band playing from his back. Then in the British-American Onegin (1999) it was used anachronistically as the tune played at Tatiana’s naming day.
|Тихо вокруг, сопки покрыты мглой,
Вот из-за туч блеснула луна,
|Around us, it is calm; Hills are covered by mist,
Suddenly, the moon shines through the clouds,