Recruits' and soldiers' songs

Recruits' and soldiers' songs. A subclass of lyrical songs about the life of recruits and soldiers. In Russian-ruled Ukraine they began to appear at the end of the 18th century, when Catherine II abolished the voluntary Cossack forces and replaced them with long-term conscript (up to 25 years) military service. In Austrian-ruled Ukraine they arose at the end of the 18th century, when Maria Theresa introduced compulsory service for those between the ages of 17 and 40. These folk songs developed from old Cossack songs and contain references to different historical periods. Their basic themes are the recruitment process (drafting, induction, desertion, capture, purchasing one's freedom); the parting with one's family, homeland, and sweetheart; the soldier's life (hardships, homesickness, and loneliness); time off duty; war (marches, battles, death or crippling); and the return to civilian life (greeting one's family and friends). The songs were composed by the soldiers or by peasants, particularly women and girls. Their treatment of the soldier's experiences is more realistic than romantic. Allegory, symbolism, and psychological parallelism are widely used. The melodies usually have a marching tempo. Recruits' and soldiers' songs of Russian-ruled Ukraine are generally many-voiced. The songs in Western Ukraine are related closely in melody and theme to the songs of other Western or Southern Slavs, who served with Ukrainians in the Austrian army.

The themes of recruits' and soldiers' songs often appear in Ukrainian literature, especially in the works of Taras Shevchenko, Yurii Fedkovych, Sydir Vorobkevych, and Osyp Makovei, and some recruits' and soldiers' songs have been based on Shevchenko's, Stepan Rudansky's, and Fedkovych's verses. The best-known musical arrangements of Ukrainian recruits' and soldiers' songs have been those by Stanyslav Liudkevych, Lev Revutsky, Mykola Leontovych, Filaret Kolessa, and Viktor Kosenko. These songs have inspired compositions not only by Ukrainian composers, such as Mykola Arkas, Revutsky, Mykhailo Verbytsky, and Kolessa, but also by non-Ukrainians, such as Joseph Haydn, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Ludwig van Beethoven.

Ioanidi, A.; Pravdiuk, O. (comps). Rekruts’ki ta soldats’ki pisni (Kyiv 1974)

Mykola Mushynka

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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