Sergey Mikhalkov

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Sergey Mikhalkov
Сергей Михалков
Mikhalkov in 2003
Sergey Vladimirovich Mikhalkov

13 March [O.S. 28 February] 1913
Moscow, Russian Empire
Died27 August 2009(2009-08-27) (aged 96)
Moscow, Russia
Resting placeNovodevichy Cemetery
Occupation(s)Chairman of the Union of Writers of the RSFSR, writer and lyricist, playwright
Known forWriting the lyrics for the Soviet and Russian national anthems
  • Natalia Konchalovskaya
    (m. 1936; died 1988)
  • Yulia Subbotina
    (m. 1997)
RelativesMikhail Mikhalkov (brother)
AwardsHero of Socialist Labour, Order of St. Andrew

Sergey Vladimirovich Mikhalkov (Russian: Сергей Владимирович Михалков; 13 March [O.S. 28 February] 1913 – 27 August 2009) was a Soviet and Russian author of children's books and satirical fables. He wrote the lyrics for the Soviet and Russian national anthems.

Life and career[edit]

Born in Moscow, into the noble Mikhalkov family, as the son of Vladimir Aleksandrovich Mikhalkov and Olga Mikhailovna (née Glebova).[1] Since the 1930s, he has rivaled Korney Chukovsky, Samuil Marshak and Agniya Barto as the most popular poet writing for Russophone children.[2] His poems about enormously tall "Uncle Styopa" ("Дядя Стёпа") enjoyed particular popularity.[3] Uncle Styopa is a friendly policeman always ready to rescue cats stuck up trees, and to perform other helpful deeds. In English, his name translates as Uncle Steeple.[4]

As a 29-year-old in 1942, Mikhalkov's work drew the attention of the Soviet Union's leader Joseph Stalin, who commissioned him to write lyrics for a new national anthem. At the time, the country was deeply embroiled in World War II and Stalin wanted a more patriotic theme for the national anthem, to replace The Internationale.

Mikhalkov penned words with writer El-Registan (1899–1945) to accompany a musical score by the composer Alexander Alexandrov (1883–1946) that became known as State Anthem of the Soviet Union. The new anthem was presented to Stalin in the summer of 1943 and was introduced as the country's new anthem on 1 January 1944.

Upon the death of Stalin in 1953, the lyrics, which mentioned him by name, were discarded during the process of de-Stalinization and the anthem continued to be used without words. Mikhalkov wrote new lyrics in 1970, but they were not submitted to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet until 27 May 1977. The new lyrics, which removed any reference to Stalin, were approved on 1 September and were made official with the printing of the new Soviet Constitution in October 1977.[5]

During the Soviet era, Mikhalkov and his wife, Natalia Konchalovskaya, sometimes worked for the KGB, for example by presenting undercover KGB staff officers to foreign diplomats, as in the case of French ambassador Maurice Dejean, who was compromised by the KGB in the 1950s.[6] His younger brother Mikhail Mikhalkov was also a notable writer as well as a KGB agent.

Use of the Soviet anthem, with Mikhalkov's lyrics, continued until 1991, when it was retired by President Boris Yeltsin after the USSR dissolved. However, when Vladimir Putin took over from Yeltsin in 2000, he began to clamor for a restoration of Alexandrov's music in place of Yeltsin's choice.[7]

Mikhalkov was 87 years old by this time and long since retired; in fact, younger Russian generations likely knew him better as the father of popular filmmakers Nikita Mikhalkov and Andrei Konchalovsky, the latter of which had dropped part of his name "Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky" when he left Russia.[8] But when Putin's push to restore the old anthem began to pick up momentum, Mikhalkov decided to write new lyrics to go with Alexandrov's score. The result was the National Anthem of Russia, which was officially adopted on 30 December 2000.

Apart from the national anthem, Mikhalkov produced a great number of satirical plays and provided scripts for several Soviet comedies. He also successfully revived a long derelict genre of satirical fable. He was awarded three Stalin Prizes (1941, 1942, 1950) and numerous other awards.

On Mikhalkov's 90th birthday in 2003, Putin personally visited him at his home in Moscow to present him with the Order "For Merit to the Fatherland", 2nd class, citing him for his contributions to the culture of Russia. Mikhalkov was also decorated with a Hero of Socialist Labour and the Order of Lenin, among others, for his work during the Soviet period.

In 1936, Mikhalkov married Natalia Petrovna Konchalovskaya (1903–1988), granddaughter of Vasily Surikov. They remained married for 53 years until her death. In 1997, Mikhalkov married physics professor Yulia Valeryevna Subbotina.[9]

Mikhalkov died in Moscow on 27 August 2009, at the age of 96.[9] His funeral, held at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, was attended by family, friends, and government officials. He was buried at Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow with full military honors.[citation needed]

Honours and awards[edit]

Russian Federation[edit]

Soviet Union[edit]


Prizes and awards[edit]

  • Lenin Prize (1970) – for poetry of recent years for primary-school children
  • USSR State Prize (1978) – for the Russian satirical newsreel "Wick" (latest edition)
  • Stalin Prize, 2nd Degree (1941) – for poetry for schoolchildren
  • Stalin Prize, 2nd Degree (1942) – for the film script "Front-Girlfriend"
  • Stalin Prize, 2nd Degree (1950) – for the plays "Ilya Golovin" and "I want to go home"
  • State Prize of the RSFSR Stanislavsky (1977) – for the satirical play "Foam", performed at the Moscow Theatre of Satire
  • Medal of N. K. Krupskaya
  • Medal of K. D. Ushinsky

Foreign awards[edit]

Religious awards[edit]

  • Order of the Blessed Prince Dmitri of the Russian Orthodox Church "For mercy" (1998)
  • Order of St. Sergius, 2nd Class (1993), Russian Orthodox Church (1993)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mikhalkov, Sergey (2006). Я был советским писателем. Приметы времени [I was a Soviet writer. Signs of time] (in Russian). Центрполиграф. ISBN 5-9524-1884-8. Retrieved 11 September 2009.
  2. ^ Miriam Morton (1967). A Harvest of Russian Children's Literature. University of California Press. pp. 4–5. ISBN 978-0-520-01745-0. Chukovsky Marshak Mikhalkov Barto.
  3. ^ Ben Hellman (2013). Fairy Tales and True Stories: The History of Russian Literature for Children and Young People (1574 - 2010). BRILL. p. 386. ISBN 978-9-004-25638-5.
  4. ^ Harding, Luke (30 August 2009). "Sergei Mikhalkov Obituary". The Guardian.
  5. ^ Голованова, М. П.; В. С. Шергин (2003). Государственные символы России. Москва: Росмэн-Пресс. p. 150. ISBN 5-353-01286-0.
  6. ^ John Barron, KGB: The Secret Work of Soviet Secret Agents. New York: Reader's Digest Press, 1974. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1974. New York: Bantam Books, 1974.
  7. ^ "What are the lyrics to Russia's national anthem, and what do they mean?". Classic FM. Retrieved 22 December 2021.
  8. ^ Youngblood, Denise J. (1 March 2003). "The Cosmopolitan and the Patriot: The brothers Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky and Russian cinema". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 23 (1): 27–41. doi:10.1080/0143968022000055258. ISSN 0143-9685. S2CID 192088905. Retrieved 22 December 2021.
  9. ^ a b Schwirtz, Michael (28 August 2009). "Sergei V. Mikhalkov, Lyricist of Soviet and Russian Anthems, Dies at 96". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 June 2023.

External links[edit]