This is one of the most beloved Russian songs of all times, both because of its combination of swashbuckling adventure and spiritual gravity...
This is one of the most beloved Russian songs of all times, both because of its swashbuckling adventure and yet its spiritual gravity, the low intense lyrics, countered constantly with the tinkering refrain of ‘Let us Pray to the Lord, Our God.”
It tells the story of how a leader of bandits, ravaging the countryside and killing Christians, suddenly, overnight, became a monk, praying for the salvation of his sinful soul.
This incredible song with a spiritual message gains a whole new dimension in this performance, where it is sung by a phenomenal choir of Russian Christian clergy.The performers here are priests and deacons from the St. Petersburg area, members of the professional ‘Clergy Choir’ of St. Petersburg.”
The starring role of this song goes to the velvety, irresistible base, the Russian renown singer Yan Osin. The rest of the choir, however, chimes in so perfectly, that the performance is nevertheless a work of brotherhood.
The hero of the song, Kudeyar, is a legendary figure in Russian stories. His origins are uncertain, but most historians assign him to the time of Ivan the Terrible (1500s). Some say he was the Tsar’s brother, others believe that he was part of the Tsar’s notorious police force before becoming a robber. Others call him a runaway relative of the Polish king, who became a Cossack (Slavic warriors) gone vagabond.
He led a passionate, reckless, wild lifestyle, robbing travelers and terrorizing the countryside with his ruthlessness.
Either way, all the stories end with Kudyar’s sudden repentance, disbanding of his gang, and an ascetic life in a Russian monastery.
The words of this particular song were composed in 1876, by Nikolai Nekrasov. Ironically, this song was part of his larger, pro-revolutionary text called ‘Who Lives Well in Russia,’ banned from publication in the Russian Empire. It’s ultimate moral was that while prayer failed to save the robber’s soul, thrusting his old robber’s knife into the heart of a land oppressors could; thus, it’s motive was to inspire people to join the revolutionary movement, not ‘Pray to the Lord Almighty.”
No one really knows, how this song, so wise and beautiful, originated from a rather crude, anti-Christian piece. Perhaps, some church member tweaked it, and it took on a life of its own…
What we do know, is that while Nekrasov old epic poem is largely forgotten, his song lives on, one of Russia’s favorite songs, inspiring people to hope, repent, and pray for ancient, sinning souls.