The State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, today overwhelmingly approved adopting a revised version of the Soviet anthem as the country’s national anthem. The draft law reviving Aleksandr Aleksandrov’s 1943 music as Russia’s national anthem was passed overwhelmingly in three separate readings, or votes. The third and final vote was 381 deputies in favor of the anthem and fifty-one against, with two abstaining. The measure, which needed at least 300 votes to pass the Duma, will now be considered by the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament. It is likely to pass easily there, given that a number of the powerful regional leaders who sit in the council, including Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, support reviving the Soviet-era anthem. Earlier this week, President Vladimir Putin called for adopting the Stalin-era anthem with new words. The original lyrics were written by Sergei Mikhalkov, who is still alive and has written new words for the Soviet music. The Kremlin, however, has not yet indicated how it will choose the new lyrics. According to the new law on the anthem, state-owned radio and television companies will be required to play it twice a day–at 6 AM and 12 midnight, as was the Soviet practice. The law also requires that the hymn be played when the president and other top officials take office, and during parliamentary sessions and official ceremonies, and that citizens stand and men remove their hats while the anthem is played.
According to polling data, the country is split roughly in half between supporters and opponents of reviving the Soviet-era anthem, and some observers believe this will lead to acts of civil disobedience over the playing of the anthem. Indeed, both opponents and supporters of the anthem held demonstrations today outside the State Duma building near Moscow’s Red Square. There were reports that Vladimir Bondar, a member of the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) faction in the Duma, was arrested during a demonstration against the hymn, but police later denied the reports. Inside the Duma, meanwhile, there was little debate: While the heads of the Duma factions were to have addressed the chamber before the third and final reading of the law, they did not. Sergei Ivanenko, deputy head of the Yabloko faction, which adamantly opposed the law re-adopting the Soviet-era anthem, charged that it had been passed in “crude violation” of the Duma’s rules. Even a supporter of the law, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia faction, said it was “shameful” that the opponents of the were not given a chance to speak. Ivanenko and Irina Khakamada, head of the SPS faction, said they would challenge the laws passed today in Russia’s Constitutional Court.
The Duma also overwhelmingly passed laws establishing the red Soviet-era flag as the banner of the Russian armed forces and the St. Andrew’s flag–a Tsarist-era symbol–as the banner of the Russian navy, while retaining the tricolor flag and the two-headed eagle, both of which are Tsarist-era symbols, as Russia’s national flag and coat-of-arms (Russian agencies, NTV, December 8).
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