White Army, Black Baron
|English: The Red Army is the Strongest|
|Krasnaja Armija vsekh silnej|
The Red Army is the Strongest (Красная Армия всех сильней, Krasnaja Armija vsekh silnej), popularly known as "White Army, Black Baron," is a marching song written by Pavel Grigorevich Gorinshtejn (1895–1961, a.k.a. Pavel Gorin, Pavel Grigorev) and composed by Samuil Pokrass (1897–1939). Written in 1920, during the Russian Civil War, the song was meant as a combat anthem for the Red Army.
The immediate context of the song is the final Crimean offensive in the Russian Civil War by Pyotr Wrangel's troops in July 1920. The second verse refers to the call to a final effort in the Crimea published by the Revolutionary Military Council in Pravda on 10 July. While the song has a separate refrain, the verses repeat the claim that "The Red Army is stronger than all", which came to be the song's conventional title. The first verse of the song reads as follows:
Белая армия, чёрный барон
Снова готовят нам царский трон,
Но от тайги до британских морей
Красная Армия всех сильней.
"Black Baron" was a nickname of Wrangel's, from the alleged penchant of his for wearing (and dressing some of his elite units in) black uniforms. Wrangel's offensive was indeed halted by the Red Army, and Wrangel and his troops were forced to retreat to Crimea in November 1920, pursued by both Red and Black cavalry and infantry. Wrangel and the remains of his army were evacuated from Crimea to Constantinople on 14 November 1920.
The song became popular in the early Soviet Union. It was sung in 1923 at the rally in Leningrad against the Curzon Line, the "British seas" acquiring new significance in view of Lord Curzon's ultimatum. In a letter to a school for blind students in the Vologda region, Nadezhda Krupskaya named it as her favourite songs alongside The Internationale. The phrase "from the taiga to the British Seas" became something of an idiomatic expression used by other authors, e.g. by V. A. Lugovsky in his poem Песни о ветре ("Song of the Wind", 1926).
In its early oral transmission during 1920–1925, the song underwent some variation. Gorinshtejn later recalled that his original lyrics had four or five verses, and that his original refrain was slightly different from the received version (reading Пусть воин красный / Сжимает властно /Свой штык упорною рукой. / Ведь все должны мы / Неудержимо /Идти в последний, смертный бой).
The song was first printed in 1925, and subsequently published under the titles of От тайги до британских морей ("From the Taiga to the British Seas"), Красная Армия ("Red Army") and Красноармейская ("[Song] of the Red Army"). It was not until 1937 that the conventional title had settled on Красная Армия всех сильней ("The Red Army is the Strongest"). During the 1920s to 1940s, the song was reproduced without indication of its authors. It was only in the 1950s that musicologist A. Shilov established the authorship of Gorinshtejn and Pokrass.
The Russian song was adopted by the Chapaev Battalion of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War, and it was allegedly sung in a Nazi torture chamber by Czech communist Julius Fučík. Alternative Russian lyrics were set to the tune during World War II, e.g. Всем нам свобода и честь дорога (Pyotr Belyi 1941 ). Even after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the tune is still played as a march during the military parades on Red Square.
In Red Vienna, the tune was used for the song Die Arbeiter von Wien (The Workers of Vienna) highlighting those fighting for a bright future of the proletariat.
Translations and variations
The tune was also used for communist songs in other languages, including Weimar Germany in the 1920s by German Communists. An early German version with the incipit German: Weißes Gesindel und adlige Brut ("White riffraff, noble scum") was a free translation of the original lyrics:
Weißes Gesindel und adlige Brut
baun am zaristischen Throne gar gut.
Doch von Sibirien zum Baltischen Meer;
die Rote Armee ist das stärkere Heer.
White riff-raff and noble scum
are busily working on the rebuilding of the tsarist throne,
but, from Siberia to the Baltic Sea,
the Red Army is the stronger army.
A popular variant of the song, "Die Arbeiter von Wien," was written by Fritz Brügel in 1927. It became popular through its use by Austrian socialists (see also Republikanischer Schutzbund) who fought the Dollfuss regime in the short-lived Austrian Civil War in February 1934. The German version was further adapted in Turkish, as Avusturya İşçi Marşı ("Austrian Workers' March"). The first verse of Brügel's version reads:
Wir sind das Bauvolk der kommenden Welt,
Wir sind der Sämann, die Saat und das Feld.
Wir sind die Schnitter der kommenden Mahd,
Wir sind die Zukunft und wir sind die Tat.
We are the construction workers of the coming world,
We are the Sower, the Seed and the Field,
We are the Reapers of the coming Mowing,
We are the Future and we are the Deed.
New lyrics continue to be set to the tune, such as Мама-анархия всех сильней ("Mother Anarchy is Stronger than All"), reported in the early 2000s in the context of the anti-globalization movement, recorded as being sung in 2003 by one "Sasha of the Belarusian Anarchist Front" as he was mooning the guards on the Polish-Belarusian border.
|Lyrics after Kryukov and Shvedov (1977)|
- Rot Front. Neues Kampf-Liederbuch, Berlin 1925, nr. 28 (p. 46); reprinted in: Zum roten Sturm voran. Kampfliederbuch, Berlin 1926, nr. 28 (p. 46), Mit Lenin. 50 Kampflieder, (ca. 1928/29), nr. 39 (p. 24), Front Kämpfer Liederbuch, Berlin 1928/29, nr. 39 (p. 26).
- Karl Adamek: LiederBilderLeseBuch. Elefanten Press, Berlin 1981. ISBN 3-88520-049-X
- A. V. Shilov, Из истории первых советских песен 1917-24 ("On the History of the First Soviet Songs, 1917-24"), Мoscow, 1963.
- A. Sokhor, Как начиналась советская музыка ("How Soviet Music began"), "МЖ" no. 2, 1967.
- N. Kryukov, M. Shvedov, Русские советские песни (1917-1977) ("Russian Soviet Songs 1917-1977), "Худож. лит.", 1977.
- Yu. E. Biryukov, ИСТОРИЯ СОЗДАНИЯ ПЕСНИ «КРАСНАЯ АРМИЯ ВСЕХ СИЛЬНЕЙ» (muzruk.info, 2009)