Russia’s national lyricist, Canada’s language laws, and the rehabilitation of a code-breaker

MikhalkovThis week, a look back at the career of the late Sergei Mikhalkov, who has died aged 96.  During World War Two, Mikhalkov wrote the lyrics to the Soviet national anthem.  After Stalin died, he rewrote the lyrics, expunging all mention of  Stalin. Decades later, following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian government adopted a new national anthem, but no-one particularly liked it: it just didn’t sound grand and powerful enough.  So in 2000, Vladimir Putin re-installed the old tune  by Alexander Alexandrov and had Mikhalkov re-write the lyrics yet again. This time round, instead of praising Stalin or Lenin, the anthem gave a nod to God. As someone who so readily held his finger to the political winds, it’s no surprise that Mikhalkov took part in smear campaigns against the likes Boris Pasternak and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.  Of course that was during Stalin’s rule, which means that not participating in such campaigns could have dire consequences.

Next, a conversation with Keith Spicer on Canada’s 40-year-old language laws.  Spicer was the country’s first enforcer of bilingualism. Being Canadian, there wasn’t much enforcing– more like pusuading, cajoling and endless, endless debating. The way Spicer tells it, Canadians eventually embraced the law, with millions of English Canadians clamoring to learn French. He says that Quebec’s provincial language rules that outlawed signs in English and discouraged English-language expressions in French were silly but understandable, given the historical hostility to French in Anglophone Canada.

turingFinally, this month the British government finally apologized for its treatment of Alan Turing, who helped break the Nazis’ war codes.  When Turing’s homosexuality was exposed, the British government stripped him of his security clearance and prosecuted him for gross indecency. Faced with a prison term, Turing agreed as an alternative to hormone treatment. The treatment drove him to suicide in 1954.

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3 responses to “Russia’s national lyricist, Canada’s language laws, and the rehabilitation of a code-breaker

  1. Cris Bobis

    As far as I can understand, it seems that the topic is generally discussing the power of “language” It can influence or affect our lives, from Canada’s bi-lingual law to different transition of Russia’s national anthem, is enough examples that through language people can voice out, demand and even the capacity to eliminate opposing their desires or will. This topic also touches the importance of language as people’s identity, status and patriotism. This topic made me think more about the history of my own language, what the history is and how it was formed.

  2. Jeremy Bilowus

    Jeremy Bilowus – Intercultural Communications – Lately their has been an “pop cultural” effort to restore Arabic script (Hebrew), to the street signs, from the current trilingual signs displaying English, Hebrew, and Arabic. In America I think the same type of up rise would happen because people would get so tired of not being able to read 1/3 of the sign, that they would protest it in some way either diplomatically (making a petition) or doing “your self” (spray painting your ideas on the signs). Israel has had a huge number of incidents with sign vandals defacing signs, and the police have been unable to catch the unwanted “artists”. Israel is reinstating the Arabic script, one sign at a time.

  3. Jeremy Bilowus

    intercultural communications- Jeremy Bilowus-
    Korea (or any nation) has recently aired new beer commercials containing some controversial themes and ideas. Its very interesting to see the differences in beer commercials between Korea and America and also the different government regulations on these commercials. In the commercial it surprised me to see a hard working army soldier holding the mug of beer (in America I think the soldier would have been censored out because he is a huge national SYMBOL giving off the idea that is good, acceptable and drunken by the armed forced). I also was dumbfounded that it is acceptable for them to say the beer relieves stress, improves health and lengthens your life ( in America this would have been definitely censored). The difference in censorship is also representative of the difference in cultures and the people living in them. Video commercial- http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8132199.stm

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