Holy War

Holy War is a song published in 1941 that was written one day after the Germany invasion.  It was written by Vasily Lebedev-Kumach and Aleksandr Aleksandrov.  The song was hugely popular and evoked emotional reactions from the Russian People.

Arise, vast country,
Arise for a fight to the death
Against the dark fascist force,
Against the cursed horde.

Chorus: (2x)
Let noble wrath
Boil over like a wave!
This is the people’s war,
a Sacred war!

We shall repulse the oppressors
Of all ardent ideas.
The rapists and the plunderers,
The torturers of people.


The black wings shall not dare
Fly over the Motherland,
On her spacious fields
The enemy shall not dare tread!


We shall drive a bullet into the forehead
Of the rotten fascist filth,
For the scum of humanity
We shall build a solid coffin!

Chorus (2x)


This song is an excellent example of how art and culture were incorporated into the war effort.  The lyrics are designed to invoke a sense of unity among the Russian people and to inspire them to fight back.  The line “for this war is a people’s war, It is a Holy War!” specifically invokes a sense of Russian unity, and by framing the war as a holy war it makes the listener feel like there is more at stake.

Throughout the song, the German people are dehumanized and portrayed as an evil force that the Russians must rise up against.  The lines “Against the fascist forces sinister, Against the cursed horde” exemplifies this, serving the purpose of showing the Germans as an evil force that must be stopped.   The song also has lines like “let our avenging anger surge” and “well drive our bullets through the skulls of the rotten fascist fiends.”  Lines like this serve the purpose of motivating the Russian people to go to war, and glorifies the conflict.

World War II - Battle of Stalingrad

What I find significant about this song is that it serves the war effort through music.  Usually when you think of war you think of the troops who take part in the battles, but the production of songs like this were just as significant to the war effort as they served as a recruiting tool for troops, created a sense of national duty and pride, and made people feel like they had to do their part even if they were not actual combatants.  I feel like having songs like this to inspire people was crucial, as the war on the eastern front was extremely brutal and casualties were monumental both among the military and civilians with estimations reaching 27,000,000 casualties.  By having patriotic music like Holy War, a sliver of hope could be given to the people who were going through horrific experiences.

russia sniper

Geldern, James Von. Mass Culture in Soviet Russia: Tales, Poems, Songs, Movies, Plays, and Folklore, 1917-1953. Indiana University Press, 2007.



3 thoughts on “Holy War

  1. Interesting take on this. Thanks for putting the song in the post that helped me a lot.


  2. Holy War was definitely a huge hit! Why is the concept of a “holy war’ so resonant in this context? Given how hostile the Soviets were toward religion, isn’t it surprising that this song would invoke the sacred? DId you listen to the song, and do you think the music itself was part of its appeal? (http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1943-2/orthodox-patriarch-appointed/1943-orthodox-patriarch-appointed-music/ ).
    I’m also intrigued by the poster at the bottom of the post, which praises the accuracy of snipers. What is the source and how is it connected to the song?
    Might be worth it to do a quick proofread for typos. Also, this is definitely a WWII post rather than a response to this week’s prompt, right?


    1. Just reading your post for this week, thanks!


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