National Anthem of Russia

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Государственный гимн Российской Федерации
English: State Anthem of the Russian Federation
Gosudarstvenny Gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii
Performance of the Hymn of the Russian Federation by the Presidential Orchestra and Kremlin Choir at the inauguration of President Dmitry Medvedev at The Kremlin on 7 May 2008. Seen here is then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

National anthem of
Russian Federation

Lyrics Sergey Mikhalkov, 2000
Music Alexander Alexandrov, 1939
Adopted December 25, 2000 (music)[1]
December 30, 2000 (lyrics)[2]
Music sample

The State Anthem of the Russian Federation (Russian: Госуда́рственный гимн Росси́йской Федера́ции, tr. Gosudarstvenny Gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii; IPA: [ɡɐsʊdarˈstvʲɪnɨj ˈɡʲimn rɐˈsʲijskoj fʲɪdʲɪˈratsɨj]) is the name of the official national anthem of Russia. Its musical composition and lyrics were adopted from the National Anthem of the Soviet Union, composed by Alexander Alexandrov, and lyricists Sergey Mikhalkov and Gabriel El-Registan.[3] The Soviet anthem was used from 1944, replacing "The Internationale" with a more Russocentric song. The anthem had no lyrics after 1956, due to the original lyrics having references to former leader Joseph Stalin. New lyrics were introduced in 1977 by Mikhalkov with lyrics placing less emphasis on World War II and more on the victory of communism.

The Russian SFSR was the only republic of the USSR without its own anthem, although most republics within the federation did have anthems of their own. The lyric-free "Patrioticheskaya Pesnya", composed by Mikhail Glinka, was officially adopted in 1990 by the Supreme Soviet of Russia[4] and confirmed in 1993,[5] after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, by President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin. The government sponsored contests to create lyrics for the unpopular anthem because of its inability to inspire Russian athletes during international competitions. None of the entries were adopted, resulting in President Vladimir Putin's restoration of the Soviet anthem, albeit without lyrics. The government sponsored a contest to find lyrics, eventually settling upon a composition by Mikhalkov; according to the government, the lyrics were selected to evoke and eulogize the history and traditions of Russia. The new anthem was adopted in late 2000, and became the second anthem used by Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Public perception of the anthem is mixed among Russians. The anthem reminds some of the best days of Russia and past sacrifices, while it reminds others of the violence that occurred under the rule of Stalin. The Russian government maintains that the anthem is a symbol of the unity of the people, and that it respects the past. A 2009 poll showed that 56% of respondents felt proud when hearing the anthem, and that 25% liked it.

Historic anthems

Before "Molitva russkikh" ("The Prayer of the Russians") was chosen as the national anthem of Imperial Russia in 1816,[6] various church hymns and military marches were used to honor the country and the Tsars. Songs used include "Grom pobedy, razdavaysya!" (Let the thunder of victory sound) and "Kol slaven" ("How Glorious Is Our Lord"). "Molitva russkikh" was adopted around 1816, and used lyrics by Vasily Zhukovsky set to the music of the British anthem, "God Save the King".[7] Russia's anthem was also influenced by the anthems of France and the Netherlands, and by the British patriotic song "Rule, Britannia!".[8]

In 1833, Zhukovsky was asked to set lyrics to a musical composition by Prince Alexei Lvov called "The Russian People's Prayer". Known more commonly as "God Save the Tsar!". It was well received by Nicholas I, who chose the song to be the next anthem of Imperial Russia. The song resembled a hymn, and its musical style was similar to that of other anthems used by European monarchs. "God Save the Tsar!" was performed for the first time on 8 December 1833, at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. It was later played at the Winter Palace on Christmas Day, by order of Nicholas I. Public singing of the anthem began at opera houses in 1834, but it was not widely known across the Russian Empire until 1837.[9]

"God Save the Tsar!" was used until the February Revolution, when the Russian monarchy was overthrown.[10] Upon the overthrow, in March 1917, the "Worker's Marseillaise", Pyotr Lavrov's modification of the French anthem "La Marseillaise", was used as an unofficial anthem by the Russian Provisional Government. The modifications Lavrov made to "La Marseillaise" included a change in meter from 2/2 to 4/4 and music harmonization to make it sound more Russian. It was used at governmental meetings, welcoming ceremonies for diplomats and state funerals.[11]

After the Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional government in the 1917 October Revolution, the anthem of international revolutionary socialism, "L'Internationale" (usually known as "The Internationale" in English), was adopted as the new anthem. The lyrics had been written by Eugène Pottier, and Pierre Degeyter had composed the music in 1871 to honor the creation of the Second Socialist International organization; in 1902, Arkadiy Yakovlevich Kots translated Pottier's lyrics into Russian. Kots also changed the grammatical tense of the song, to make it more decisive in nature.[12] The first major use of the song was at the funeral of victims of the February Revolution in Petrograd. Lenin also wanted "The Internationale" to be played more often because it was more socialist, and could not be confused with the French anthem;[11] other persons in the new Soviet government believed "La Marseillaise" to be too bourgeois.[13] "The Internationale" was used as the anthem of Soviet Russia from 1918, adopted by the newly created Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1922, and was used until 1944.[14]

Post-1944 Soviet anthem


A postage stamp with head of a man facing to the left. To the left is musical notations; below the notations is Cyrillic text.
1983 Soviet stamp honoring the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alexander Alexandrov

The music of the national anthem, created by Alexander Alexandrov, had previously been incorporated in several hymns and compositions. The music was first used in the Hymn of the Bolshevik Party, created in 1939. When the Comintern was dissolved in 1943, the government argued that "The Internationale", which was historically associated with the Comintern, should be replaced as the National Anthem of the Soviet Union. Alexandrov's music was chosen as the new anthem by the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin after a contest in 1943. Stalin praised the song for fulfilling what a national anthem should be, though he criticized the song's orchestration.[15]

In response, Alexandrov blamed the problems on Viktor Knushevitsky, who was responsible for orchestrating the entries for the final contest rounds.[15][16] When writing the Bolshevik party anthem, Alexandrov incorporated pieces from the song "Zhit' stalo luchshe" ("Life Has Become Better"), a musical comedy that he composed.[17] This comedy was based on a slogan Stalin first used in 1935. Over 200 entries were submitted for the anthem contest, including some by famous Soviet composers Dmitri Shostakovich, Aram Khachaturian and Iona Tuskiya.[16] Later, the rejected joint entry by Khachaturian and Shostakovich became Song of the Red Army,[16] and Khachaturian went on to compose the Anthem of the Armenian SSR.[18][19] There was also an entry from Boris Alexandrov, the son of Alexander. His rejected entry, "Long Live Our State" (Да здравствует наша держава), became a popular patriotic song and was adopted as the anthem of Transnistria.[20][21]

During the 2000 debate on the anthem, Boris Gryzlov, the leader of the Unity faction in the Duma, noted that the music which Alexandrov wrote for the Soviet anthem was similar to Vasily Kalinnikov's 1892 overture, "Bylina".[22] Supporters of the Soviet anthem mentioned this in the various debates held in the Duma on the change of anthem,[23] but there is no evidence that Alexandrov consciously used parts of "Bylina" in his composition.

Another musical work has also been discovered, with identical or near-identical music, that long predates Alexandrov's 1943 involvement with the Anthem of the USSR. A Ukrainian Scouting (Plast) anthem from c. 1912, with music composed by Yury Piasetsky (Юрій Пясецький) known as "Plastovy Obit" (Пластовий Oбіт - The Plast Oath), to lyrics by Plast founder Oleksander Tysovsky (Oлександр Тисовський) has been noted by Plast members to bear an extremely close or identical resemblance to the later Russian/Soviet anthem. The music and words are found in various Plast handbooks and songbooks, and a performance of this song in 2012 can be viewed on YouTube. The first line reads: "V pozhezhakh vsesvitnykh, u lunakh kryvavykh" - "В пожежах всесвітних, у лунах кривавих". The Piasetsky-Tysovsky anthem actually glorifies the Ukrainian independence movement, which had the support of the Plast organization.[24]


A man in the center, facing the left, is wearing medals on a jacket. He is shaking hands with another man, watched by three others.
Lyrics composer Sergey Mikhalkov in 2002 meeting President Putin
"Russian National Anthem lyrics" — world's smallest book[25]

After selecting the music by Alexandrov for the anthem, Stalin needed new lyrics. He thought that the anthem was short and, because of the Great Patriotic War, that it needed a statement about the impending defeat of Nazi Germany by the Red Army. The poets Sergey Mikhalkov and Gabriel El-Registan were called to Moscow by one of Stalin's staffers, and were told to fix the lyrics to Alexandrov's music. They were instructed to keep the verses the same, but to find a way to change the refrains which described "a Country of Soviets". Because of the difficulty of expressing the concepts of the Great Patriotic War in song, that idea was dropped from the version which El-Registan and Mikhalkov completed overnight. After a few minor changes to emphasize the Russian Motherland, Stalin approved the anthem and had it published on 7 November 1943,[26][27] including a line about Stalin "inspir[ing] us to keep the faith with the people".[28] The revised anthem was announced to all of the USSR on January 1, 1944 and became official on March 15, 1944.[29][30]

After Stalin's death in 1953, the Soviet government examined his legacy. The government began the de-Stalinization process, which included downplaying the role of Stalin and moving his corpse from Lenin's Mausoleum to the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.[31] In addition, the anthem lyrics composed by Mikhalkov and El-Registan were officially scrapped by the Soviet government in 1956.[32] The anthem was still used by the Soviet government, but without any official lyrics. In private, this anthem became known the "Song Without Words".[33] Mikhalkov wrote a new set of lyrics in 1970, but they were not submitted to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet until May 27, 1977. The new lyrics, which eliminated any mention of Stalin, were approved on 1 September, and were made official with the printing of the new Soviet Constitution in October 1977.[30] In the credits for the 1977 lyrics, Mikhalkov was mentioned, but references to El-Registan, who died in 1945, were dropped for unknown reasons.[33]

"Patrioticheskaya Pesnya"

With the impending collapse of the Soviet Union in early 1990, a new national anthem was needed to help define the reorganized nation and to reject the Soviet past.[34][35] The Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR, Boris Yeltsin, was advised to revive "God Save The Tsar" with modifications to the lyrics. However, he instead selected a piece composed by Mikhail Glinka. The piece, known as "Patrioticheskaya Pesnya", was a wordless piano composition discovered after Glinka's death. "Patrioticheskaya Pesnya" was performed in front of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR on November 23, 1990.[36] The song was decreed by the Supreme Soviet to be the new Russian anthem that same day.[4] This anthem was intended to be permanent, which can be seen from the parliamentary draft of the Constitution, approved and drafted by Supreme Soviet, Congress of People's Deputies and its Constitutional Commission (with latter formally headed by President of Russia). The draft, among other things, reads that:

The National Anthem of the Russian Federation is the Patriotic Song composed by Mikhail Glinka. The text of the National Anthem of the Russian Federation shall be endorsed by the federal law[37]

But conflict between President and Congress made passage of that draft less likely: the Congress shifted onto more and more rewriting of the 1978 Russian Constitution, while President pushed forward with new draft Constitution, which doesn't define state symbols. After 1993 Russian constitutional crisis and just one day before the constitutional referendum (i.e. on December 11, 1993) Yeltsin, then President of the Russian Federation, issued a presidential decree on December 11, 1993, retaining "Patrioticheskaya Pesnya" the official anthem for Russia.,[30][38] but this decree was provisional, since the draft Constitution (which was passed a day later) explicitly referred this matter to legislation, enacted by parliament. According to Article 70 of the Constitution, state symbols (which are an anthem, flag and coat of arms) required further definition by future legislation.[39] As it was a constitutional matter, it had to be passed by a two-thirds majority in the Duma.[40]

Between 1994 and 1999, many votes were called for in the State Duma to retain "Patrioticheskaya Pesnya" as the official anthem of Russia. However, it faced stiff opposition from members of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, who wanted the Soviet anthem restored.[36] Because any anthem had to be approved by a two-thirds supermajority, this disagreement between Duma factions for nearly a decade prevented passage of an anthem.

Call for lyrics

When "Patrioticheskaya Pesnya" was used as the national anthem, it never had official lyrics.[41] The anthem struck a positive chord for some people because it did not contain elements from the Soviet past, and because the public considered Glinka to be a patriot and a true Russian.[36] However, the lack of lyrics doomed "Patrioticheskaya Pesnya".[42] Various attempts were made to compose lyrics for the anthem, including a contest that allowed any Russian citizen to participate. A committee set up by the government looked at over 6000 entries, and 20 were recorded by an orchestra for a final vote.[43]

The eventual winner was Viktor Radugin's "Be glorious, Russia" (Славься, Россия! ("Slavsya, Rossiya!)).[44] However, none of the lyrics were officially adopted by Yeltsin or the Russian government. One of the reasons that partially explained the lack of lyrics was the original use of Glinka's composition: the praise of the Tsar and of the Russian Orthodox Church.[45] Other complaints raised about the song were that it was hard to remember, uninspiring, and musically complicated.[46] It was one of the few national anthems that lacked official lyrics during this period.[47] The only other wordless national anthems in the period from 1990 to 2000 were "My Belarusy" of Belarus[48] (until 2002),[49] "Marcha Real" of Spain,[50] and "Intermeco" of Bosnia and Herzegovina[51]

Modern adoption

A musical score that has Russian text
The official arrangement of the Russian anthem completed in 2001

The anthem debate intensified in October 2000 when Yeltsin's successor, Vladimir Putin, was approached by Russian athletes who were concerned that they had no words to sing for the anthem during the medal ceremonies at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games. Putin brought public attention to the issue and put it before the State Council.[46] CNN also reported that members of the Spartak Moscow football club complained that the wordless anthem "affected their morale and performance".[52] Two years earlier, during the 1998 World Cup, members of the Russian team commented that the wordless anthem failed to inspire "great patriotic effort".[41]

In a November session of the Federation Council, Putin stated that establishing the national symbols (anthem, flag and coat of arms) should be a top priority for the country.[53] Putin pressed for the former Soviet anthem to be selected as the new Russian anthem, but strongly suggested that new lyrics be written. He did not say how much of the old Soviet lyrics should be retained for the new anthem.[41] Putin submitted the bill "On the National Anthem of the Russian Federation" to the Duma for their consideration on 4 December.[43] The Duma voted 381–51–1 in favor of adopting Alexandrov's music as the national anthem on 8 December 2000.[54] Following the vote, a committee was formed and tasked with exploring lyrics for the national anthem. After receiving over 6,000 manuscripts from all sectors of Russian society,[55] the committee selected lyrics by Mikhalkov for the anthem.[43]

Before the official adoption of the lyrics, the Kremlin released a section of the anthem, which made a reference to the flag and coat of arms:

Its mighty wings spread above us
The Russian eagle is hovering high
The Motherland's tricolor symbol
Is leading Russia's peoples to victory

— Kremlin source, [56]
Instrumental performance of the Russian national anthem at the 2010 Moscow Victory Day Parade in Moscow's Red Square, resplendent with a 21 gun salute

The above lines were omitted from the final version of the lyrics. After the bill was approved by the Federation Council on 20 December,[57] "On the National Anthem of the Russian Federation" was signed into law by President Putin on 25 December, officially making Alexandrov's music the national anthem of Russia. The law was published two days later in the official government Newspaper of record Rossiyskaya Gazeta.[58] The new anthem was first performed on 30 December, during a ceremony at the Great Kremlin Palace in Moscow at which Mikhalkov's lyrics were officially made part of the national anthem.[59][60]

Not everyone agreed with the adoption of the new anthem. Yeltsin argued that Putin should not have changed the anthem merely to "follow blindly the mood of the people".[61] Yeltsin also felt that the restoration of the Soviet anthem was part of a move to reject post-communist reforms that had taken place since Russian independence and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.[42] This was one of Yeltsin's few public criticisms of Putin.[62]

The liberal political party Yabloko stated that the re-adoption of the Soviet anthem "deepened the schism in [Russian] society".[61] The Soviet anthem was supported by the Communist Party and by Putin himself. The other national symbols used by Russia in 1990, the white-blue-red flag and the double-headed eagle coat of arms, were also given legal approval by Putin in December, thus ending the debate over the national symbols.[63] After all of the symbols were adopted, Putin said on television that this move was needed to heal Russia's past and to fuse the period of the Soviet Union with Russia's history. He also stated that, while Russia's march towards democracy would not be stopped,[64] the rejection of the Soviet era would have left the lives of their mothers and fathers bereft of meaning.[65] It took some time for the Russian people to familiarize themselves with the anthem's lyrics; athletes were only able to hum along with the anthem during the medal ceremonies at the 2002 Winter Olympics.[42]

Public perception

A postage stamp showing Cyrillic characters.
A 2001 stamp released by Russian Post with the lyrics of the new anthem

The Russian national anthem is set to the melody of the Soviet anthem (used since 1944). As a result, there have been several controversies related to its use. For instance, some—including cellist Mstislav Rostropovich—have vowed not to stand during the anthem.[66][67] Russian cultural figures and government officials were also troubled by Putin's restoration of the Soviet anthem. A former adviser to both Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last President of the Soviet Union, stated that, when "Stalin's hymn" was used as the national anthem of the Soviet Union, horrific crimes took place.[67]

At the 2007 funeral of Yeltsin, the Russian anthem was played as his coffin was laid to rest at the Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow.[62] While it was common to hear the anthem during state funerals for Soviet civil and military officials,[68] honored citizens of the nation,[69] and Soviet leaders, as was the case for Alexei Kosygin, Leonid Brezhnev,[70] Yuri Andropov[71] and Konstantin Chernenko,[72] writing in The Daily Telegraph Boris Berezovsky felt that playing the anthem at Yeltsin's funeral "abused the man who brought freedom" to the Russian people.[73] The Russian government states that the "solemn music and poetic work" of the anthem, despite its history, is a symbol of unity for the Russian people. Mikhalkov's words evoke "feelings of patriotism, respect for the history of the country and its system of government."[58]

In a 2009 poll conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center and publicized just two days before Russia's flag day (22 August), 56% of respondents stated that they felt proud when hearing the national anthem. However, only 39% could recall the words of the first line of the anthem. This was an increase from 33% in 2007. According to the survey, between 34 and 36% could not identify the anthem's first line. Overall, only 25% of respondents said they liked the anthem.[74] In the previous year, the Russian Public Opinion Research Center found out that 56% of Russians felt pride and admiration at the anthem, even though only 40% (up from 19% in 2004) knew the first words of the anthem. It was also noted in the survey that the younger generation was the most familiar with the words.[74]

In September 2009, a line from the lyrics used during Stalin's rule reappeared at the Moscow Metro station Kurskaya-Koltsevaya: "We were raised by Stalin to be true to the people, inspiring us to feats of labour and heroism." While groups have threatened legal action to reverse the re-addition of this phrase on a stone banner at the vestibule's rotunda, it was part of the original design of Kurskaya station and had been removed during de-Stalinization. Most of the commentary surrounding this event focused on the Kremlin's attempt to "rehabilitate the image" of Stalin by using symbolism sympathetic to or created by him.[75]

The Communist Party strongly supported the restoration of Alexandrov's melody, but some members proposed other changes to the anthem. In March 2010, Boris Kashin, a CPRF member of the Duma, advocated for the removal of any reference to God in the anthem. Kashin's suggestion was also supported by Alexander Nikonov, a journalist with SPID-INFO and an avowed atheist. Nikonov argued that religion should be a private matter and should not be used by the state.[76] Kashin found that the cost for making a new anthem recording will be about 120,000 rubles. The Russian Government quickly rejected the request because it lacked statistical data and other findings.[77] Nikonov asked the Constitutional Court of Russia in 2005 if the lyrics were compatible with Russian law.[76]


File:Federal Constitutional Law - On the National Anthem of the Russian Federation.djvu Regulations for the performance of the national anthem are set forth in the law signed by President Putin on 25 December 2000. While a performance of the anthem may include only music, only words, or a combination of both, the anthem must be performed using the official music and words prescribed by law. Once a performance has been recorded, it may be used for any purpose, such as in a radio or television broadcast. The anthem may be played for solemn or celebratory occasions, such as the annual Victory Day parade in Moscow,[78] or the funerals of heads of state and other significant figures. When asked about playing the anthem during the Victory Day parades, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov stated that because of the acoustics of the Red Square, only an orchestra would be used because voices would be swallowed by the echo.[79]

The anthem is mandatory at the swearing-in of the President of Russia, for opening and closing sessions of the Duma and the Federation Council, and for official state ceremonies. It is played on television and radio at the beginning and end of the broadcast day. If programming is continuous, the anthem is played once at 0600 hours and again at midnight. The anthem is also played on New Year's Eve after a speech by the President. It is played at sporting events in Russia and abroad, according to the protocol of the organisation hosting the games. When the anthem is played, all headgear must be removed and all those in attendance must face the Russian flag, if it is present. Uniformed personnel must give a military salute when the anthem plays.[1]

The anthem is performed in 4/4 (common time) or in 2/4 (half time) in the key of C major, and has a tempo of 76 beats per minute. Using either time signature, the anthem must be played in a festive and quick tempo (Russian: Торжественно and Распевно). The government has released different notations for orchestras, brass bands and wind bands.[80][81]

According to Russian copyright law, state symbols and signs are not protected by copyright.[82] As such, the anthem's music and lyrics may be used and modified freely. Although the law calls for the anthem to be performed respectfully and for performers to avoid causing offence, it does not define what constitutes offensive acts or penalties.[1] Standing for the anthem is required by law but the law does not specify a penalty for refusing to stand.[83]

On one occasion in the summer of 2004, President Putin chastised the national football team for their behavior during the playing of the anthem. During the opening ceremonies of the 2004 European Football Championship, the team was caught on camera chewing gum during the Russian anthem. Through Leonid Tyagachev, then head of the Russian Olympic Committee, Putin told the team to stop chewing gum and to sing the anthem. Gennady Shvets, then the Russian Olympic Committee's press chief, denied being contacted by the Kremlin but said he was aware of displeasure with the players' behaviour.[84]

Official lyrics

Russian[2] Transliteration English translation[85]

Россия – священная наша держава,
Россия – любимая наша страна.
Могучая воля, великая слава –
Твоё достоянье на все времена!

Славься, Отечество наше свободное,
Братских народов союз вековой,
Предками данная мудрость народная!
Славься, страна! Мы гордимся тобой!

От южных морей до полярного края
Раскинулись наши леса и поля.
Одна ты на свете! Одна ты такая –
Хранимая Богом родная земля!


Широкий простор для мечты и для жизни
Грядущие нам открывают года.
Нам силу даёт наша верность Отчизне.
Так было, так есть и так будет всегда!


Rossiya – svyashchennaya nasha derzhava,
Rossiya – lyubimaya nasha strana.
Moguchaya volya, velikaya slava –
Tvoyo dostoyanye na vse vremena!

Slav'sya, Otechestvo nashe svobodnoye,
Bratskih narodov soyuz vekovoy,
Predkami dannaya mudrost' narodnaya!
Slav'sya, strana! My gordimsya toboy!

Ot yuzhnyh morey do polyarnogo kraya
Raskinulis' nashi lesa i polya.
Odna ty na svete! Odna ty takaya –
Khranimaya Bogom rodnaya zemlya!


Shiroky prostor dlya mechty i dlya zhizni.
Gryadushchiye nam otkryvayut goda.
Nam silu dayot nasha vernost' Otchizne.
Tak bylo, tak yest' i tak budet vsegda!


Russia – our sacred homeland,
Russia – our beloved country.
A mighty will, a great glory –
These are your heritage for all time!

Be glorious, our free Fatherland,
Age-old union of fraternal peoples,
Ancestor-given wisdom of the people!
Be glorious, our country! We are proud of you!

From the southern seas to the polar lands
Spread are our forests and fields.
You are unique in the world, one of a kind –
This native land protected by God!


Wide spaces for dreams and for living
Are opened for us by the coming years
Our loyalty to the Fatherland gives us strength.
So it was, so it is, and so it always will be!



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  14. Volkov 2008, pp. 34
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  25. Книга рекордов России
  26. Montefiore 2005, pp. 460–461
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