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31 July

On July 31, 1956, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union found a solution to the post-war housing shortage. By signing a decree on the “fight against architectural extravagances”, they began mass construction of cost-efficient housing.…

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Peter Carl Faberge

Peter Carl Faberge was a world famous master jeweler and head of the ‘House of Faberge’ in Imperial Russia in the waning days of the Russian Empire.

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Of Russian origin: Katyusha

Фестивальная катюшаKatyusha, the talisman of the International Youth Festival 

The word Katyusha is a tender nickname derived from the Russian name Ekaterina. The name is fondly thought of by Russians for two main reasons, both emerging from the darkest days of the 20th century.

In 1938, as the light of peace was being extinguished across Europe once again, two Russians, composer Matvey Blanter and his poet friend Mikhail Isakovsky, wrote the score and words for a song. Katyusha tells the story of a peasant girl who longs for her beloved, who is serving far away on the border. The song evokes three themes central to the Russian psyche: the loyal girl pining for her love, the heroic soldier and the Motherland. The tune is upbeat and rousing, but the themes of love, national pride and the impending sense of war are all present. Little perhaps did the song’s creators know how Katyusha’s prophetic elements would be played out, just three years later.

In July 1941, the Soviet Union had already become a state full of hapless Katyushas as German armies killed or captured millions of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers. It was then, at this critical moment that female students from an industrial school in Moscow sang the song to the men marching past them to the front. The song deeply touched the soldiers and became popular throughout the USSR and Poland, a call to fight off the Nazis. 

At the same time, a rather different type of Katyusha was making its presence felt in the very same conflict. Mobile rocket launchers developed before the war were first used in July 1941. Multiple frames on the back of a truck enabled a battery of four launchers to hurl 4.35 tonnes of explosives onto a ten-acre impact zone from a distance of over five kilometers. The letter K on their side, from the Voronezh Komintern factory where they were built, led to the adoption of the fond name “Katyusha”. The scream of the rockets as they left the launcher also led to it becoming known as “Stalin’s Organ”. Soviet troops loved them. By the Nazi troops hearing the scream of the rockets opposite, they weren’t received so fondly. German infantry soldiers swore they would shoot on site any Soviet soldiers found operating a Katyusha.

Пуск ракеты с установки КатюшаKatyusha mobile rocket launcher

So when you hear of the maelstrom of World War Two and the USSR’s fight for survival, think of the screams of the rocket launchers, and the troops marching past to fight the Germans singing this song:



Расцветали яблони и груши,

Apple and pear trees were a-blooming,

Rastsvetali yabloni i grushi,

Поплыли туманы над рекой.

Mist (was) creeping on the river.

Poplyli tumany nad rekoj.

Выходила на берег Катюша,

Katyusha set out on the banks,

Vykhodila na bereg Katyusha,

На высокий берег на крутой.

On the steep and lofty bank.

Na vysokij bereg na krutoj.



Выходила, песню заводила

She was walking, singing a song

Vykhodila, pesnyu zavodila

Про степного, сизого орла,

About a grey steppe eagle,

Pro stepnogo, sizogo orla,

Про того, которого любила,

About her true love,

Pro togo, kotorogo lybila,

Про того, чьи письма берегла.

Whose letters she was keeping.

Pro togo, chi pisma beregla.


 

Ой ты, песня, песенка девичья,

Oh you song! Little song of a maiden,

Oj ty, pesnia, pesenka devichya

Ты лети за ясным солнцем вслед.

Head for the bright sun.

Ty leti za iasnym solntsem vsled.

И бойцу на дальнем пограничье

And reach for the soldier on the far-away border

I bojtsu na dalnem pograniche

От Катюши передай привет.

Along with greetings from Katyusha.

Ot Katyushi peredaj privet.


 

Пусть он вспомнит девушку простую,

Let him remember an ordinary girl,

Pust on vspomnit devushku prostuyu

Пусть услышит, как она поет,

And hear how she sings,

Pust uslyshit, kak ona poet,

Пусть он землю бережет родную,

Let him preserve the Motherland,

Pust on zemlyu berezhet rodnuyu,

А любовь Катюша сбережет.

Same as Katyusha preserves their love.

A lyubov Katyusha sberezhet.

Written by Tom Barton, RT correspondent