"Katyusha," also transliterated "Katusha", "Katiusha" 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 love. 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 probable 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.