Thursday, December 16, 2010

The odd similarity between the national anthems of Yugoslavia and Poland

One of the most striking national anthems I know is Poland’s Mazurek Dąbrowskiego. Great therefore was my surprise just now when I thought I heard it somewhere but Draga told me it was the national anthem of Yugoslavia. Of course I posed a wager, which means that I’ll be doing the dishes for the rest of the month (I was already doing the dishes for the rest of the week for my foolish insisting that Total Eclipse Of The Heart was by Stevie Nicks).

It appears that the man who wrote the song Hej Sloveni (Hey Slavs) in 1834, the priest Samuel Tomášik, indeed based it on Mazurek Dąbrowskiego, which stems from 1797. Neither Poland nor Yugoslavia existed at the time but Poland adopted Mazurek Dąbrowskiego in 1926 as the national anthem and Yugoslavia did so with Hej Sloveni in 1943.

What a small world…

Mazurek Dąbrowskiego (Danbrowsky’s Mazurek; Polish national anthem)

Hej Sloveni (Hey Slavs; Yugoslavian national anthem)

Mazurek Dąbrowskiego Lyrics:

Poland has not perished yet
So long as we still live
That which alien force has seized
We at sabrepoint shall retrieve

March, march, Dąbrowski
From Italy to Poland
Under thy command
Let us now rejoin the nation

Cross the Vistula and Warta
And Poles we shall be
We've been shown by Bonaparte
Ways to victory

March, march...

Like Czarniecki to Poznań
After Swedish occupation,
To rescue our homeland
We shall return by sea

March, march...

Father, in tears
Says to his Basia
Just listen, it seems that our people
Are beating the drums

March, march...

Hej Sloveni Lyrics:

Hey, Slavs, it still lives
the word (spirit) of our grandfathers
As long as the heart of their sons
beats for our nation.

It lives, it lives the Slavic spirit,
It will live for centuries!
Vainly threatens the abyss of Hell
and the fire of the thunder.

Let everything above us now
be shattered by a storm wind (Bura).
The cliff cracks, the oak breaks,
Let the earth quake.

We stand firmly
like the mountains,
Damned be the traitor
of his homeland!


  1. Hi there. I just wanted to say that it's not 'Hey slaves' but 'Hey Slavs' instead. Slavs are, as you might know, the biggest ethno-linguistic group of Europe. As both of those countries are/were slavic, it's no mystery why they chose that song as their national anthems. It's just a coincidence those two words are similar in English. Hope I could help.

  2. Hi Woo, thanks for the heads-up. I changed the Slaves to Slavs. And no, it's no mystery but still striking.

  3. I have to add that it's quite striking that Yugoslavians chose a 'remix' (sorry to say that) of a Polish anthem and it's not a coincidence that those two have the similar lyrics.

    First of all, the music is native to Poland. The melody of the Polish anthem is a lively and rhythmical mazurka. Mazurka as a musical form derives from the stylization of traditional melodies for the folk dances of Masovia, a region in central Poland. Considered one of Poland's national dances in pre-partition times, it owes its popularity in 19th-century West European ballrooms to the mazurkas of Frédéric Chopin.

    Secondly, "Dabrowski's Mazurka", expressing the idea that the nation of Poland, despite lack of independence, had not disappeared as long as the Polish people were still alive and fighting in its name and became one of the most popular patriotic songs in Poland. During the European Revolutions of 1848, Poland Is Not Yet Lost won favor throughout Europe as a revolutionary anthem. This led the Slovak poet Samo Tomášik to write the anthem, "Hey Slavs", based on the melody of the Polish anthem. The author clearly states it: "... I remembered the old Polish song Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła, póki my żyjemy ("Poland has not yet perished as long as we live."). That familiar melody caused my heart to erupt with defiant Hej, Slováci, ešte naša slovenská reč žije" (Diary of Samuel Tomášik, Sunday, 2 November 1834)


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