Ukraine has not yet perished, but should words to its anthem?

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Aug. 20, 2008, 6:44 p.m. |
“Ukraine has not yet perished” But this, the most recognized and controversial opening lyric to the country’s national anthem, may be headed to the graveyard, if a new and more optimistic version catches on ew and more optimistic version catches on.

Oleh Skrypka, a popular Ukrainian folk and rock musician, has written up new lyrics for an old song that sounds, to some, too much like a dirge.

Skrypka will sing his version of the anthem on Aug. 23 on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), the day before Ukraine celebrates its 17th anniversary as an independent nation.

Skrypka, who has in recent years turned into a leading proponent for reviving lost Ukrainian traditions and folklore, is not pushing his version per se.

But he does want to start a discussion – and offer what he says is a more upbeat alternative.

In a Kyiv Post interview, Skrypka said the idea of writing new lyrics emerged gradually, after his band – Vopli Vidopliasova – started regularly performing the anthem.

“We frequently heard that the words are pessimistic, archaic, etc.,” Skrypka said. “So we announced a contest. We received many versions for the anthem’s lyrics.”

Although Skrypka would not reveal the entire set of new lyrics before his official presentation on Aug. 23, he called his new version positive and light.

He gave the Post a sample.

Replaced will be the infamous lyric: “Ukraine’s glory hasn’t perished, nor her freedom/Upon us, fellow compatriots, fate shall smile once more.”

The Skrypka band suggests replacing this with: “Our dear Ukraine is flourishing like a spring field/We are glorious Ukrainians; we’ve got a happy fate.”

Originally, both the lyrics and the melody of Ukraine’s present anthem “Ukraine hasn’t perished yet” were written in the second half of the 19th Century by Pavlo Chubynsky and Mykhaylo Verbytsky, respectively. The lyrics were later modified and shortened to the current version.

While Verbytsky’s music was officially adopted in 1992, only 11 years later did Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, pass the law approving Chubynsky’s modified lyrics.

The current anthem does have its supporters, as well as detractors who criticize it for its pessimism and outdated content.

The anthem is “essentially destructive,” said Volodymyr Cherevatenko, a Kharkiv songwriter who has submitted his personal version on several Internet forums. “It is an ordinary revolutionary song of the past times. But everything has changed and [now independent] Ukraine faces new tasks and challenges.”

Skrypka, however, said he is not certain that the present anthem needs to be replaced.

“It’s an old song. It’s like a historical monument, and it’s beautiful,” Skrypka said. “But the country is developing, times change. Maybe we should change the anthem.”

Skrypka insisted his aim is not to campaign for his version.

“I am raising this issue up for discussion,” he said.

“I am a rock musician and I’m more inclined to unite people around a common idea, to boost peoples’ creativity. As for my personal ambitions, when the issue of rewriting Ukraine’s anthem is put forth, I’m sure there will be many ‘national artists’ eager to perform this task and some may even do it pretty well. But in order for that to happen, there should be an emotional movement among the people.”

Skrypka’s anthem performance on Aug. 23 is part of a karaoke party, involving the public to sing the national anthem. The musician will also release two CDs, one containing both the original and rehashed version of the anthem versions, and the second will contain the anthem in karaoke format.
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