The history of the World Festivals is inextricably linked with its musical symbol — the Hymn of the democratic youth of the world. The music was created by the famous Soviet composer Anatoly Novikov, the text was written by the poet-songwriter Lev Oshanin. The composition was written for the song contest for the first World Festival of Youth and Students in Prague in 1947. The jury fell in love with the Hymn of Novikov and Oshanin, and all the participants and guests of the first Festival felt the same a little later. The Federation of Democratic Youth decided to regard the March of the Democratic Youth as the official Hymn of the WFYS. In archival documents, there were memories of Anatoly Grigorievich about how a great song was born.
«…Thus, the war is over. But at the same time, it did not end. The situation was very tense, the threat of a new war was distinctly traced. In light of these sentiments, it was decided to hold the first Festival of Youth and Students in Prague in 1947. According to the organizers, democratic youths from different countries were supposed to gather there to have a heart talk: how and what to do, not to let the horrors of the war years happen again, so that peace could exist on earth. The World Federation of Democratic Youth has announced a competition to create a song about the Festival. Representatives of many countries took part, and the news about the competition came to the Soviet Union. Lev Oshanin and I was also invited to try to write a song. We agreed: the topic was very burning and acute. We began to think about those guys who were inside this war and risked their lives, who do not need a new war! We thought about those whom we saw on our trips, about unemployed children sleeping on garden benches and downpipes. These pictures were horrific, but it was very important to remember again and to pass it all through ourselves to express our protest in the song, the youth’s desire for another, peaceful life. With these thoughts, we increased the verbal content.
Lev wrote the text, gave it to me, and I carefully considered it. Music was born gradually. But one fine, wonderful moment of my life suddenly pulled me to the piano. I wrote one page of notes, penciled the main theme, harmony, basses. Remember: there, in the song, there is the middle part between the solo part and the chorus, on the phrase «Num molodim vtorit pesne toj ves’ shar zemnoi» (which means: «To us, young, the whole earth echoes the song»). In this moment, I always had a high note. I could write it down and spoil the whole song, and later it would be hard to sing it. It was the note «F», a difficult high note. I thought for a long time how I could avoid it, come up with different options, and finally the decision came. Instead of «F» I used the note «E». As soon as it was found, the beautiful gamut immediately arise. And the note came not to the end of the song, but to the springboard, to the return to the first melody, several iron regularities immediately go on for it, very beautiful and compelling.
I, as the phrase goes, jumped for joy and called Oshanin. He immediately arrived and sat down near the piano. I said to him: «Listen!». And I began to play my march. Then he wiped his glasses and remarked: «But my poems do not suit here, they do not fit here…». I replied: «Is this important? You’re a professional, a poet! You understand that this music is what we talked about. Now go and rewrite it in the way, that music goes! »
4 songs were sent to Prague written by: Blanter, Kruchinin, Katz and ours. The capitalist countries also took part in the competition, it was very large. The Chairperson of the jury was the English composer Alan Bush. And here came the moment, when they have to listen and decide. One song fails, the other fails. Just ours remains. And it was announced the song of the Festival. As a laureate, I went to Prague together with the Soviet delegation. They met us there with respect. They said that tomorrow there will be the full rehearsal on the square. I did not sleep the whole night because I worried. In the morning, when the orchestra started playing and the whole stadium was singing our song, the sensations were incredible. 4 days all Prague sang our March.
I want to say a few words about the works that have been submitted to the contest. They show what people thought about, what they felt and what they thought about this Festival. Firstly, on one side lay the claviers for the polyphonic chorus. Apparently, the Catholics believed that this would be another meeting, that it would be some kind of prayer, that everyone would stand up, raise their hands to heaven and sing that the world should become better. On the other were those that in our everyday life we call «hits»: rhythmic, danceable, with rather cheeky light text. At this Festival, some people were also those who came only to take a walk, dance, visit fairs. And the songwriters who wrote other hymns also thought that the Festival will be like this. They did not understand anything due to the Festival in Prague. It was the political event, the unification of progressive democratic youth, who understands that in the conditions in which it lives, something needs to be changed.
And our song was rated. And our song was like. A year later, when the second Festival was held in Budapest, the Federation of Democratic Youth decided to regard the song as the official Hymn of democratic youth.
Recently I read in the Pravda newspaper that in America there was a congress of progressive youth, which ended in the singing of our March of democratic youth. For me it was the best gift — it means the song lives and does its good work … »