Baikal Playlist: Let’s Listen to the Songs about the Lake
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August, 06

Baikal Playlist: Let’s Listen to the Songs about the Lake

Myths, legends and songs have been composed about the ancient lake since hundreds and dozens of years ago. The article will feature the most popular and well-known songs about Baikal.

“Glorious Sea - Sacred Baikal”

This is, in all probability, the most famous song about Lake Baikal. Despite the fact that it is considered to be a folk song, the author of its words is the Siberian poet Dmitri Pavlovich Davydov (the nephew of another famous poet and hero of the Patriotic War of 1812 Denis Davydov). In 1858 the St. Petersburg newspaper “Zolotoye Runo” (“The Golden Fleece”) published his poem “The Thoughts of a Refugee at Lake Baikal”. The poet composed it, having lived in Siberia for many years and being familiar with exiles, convicts and, of course, local nature praised by him in the poem. Soon the lyrics were set to music, the composers are considered to be the prisoners from Nerchinsk mines, and the song became a kind of an anthem to Lake Baikal. As it is often the case, the name of the song has changed, and the song is now called by the first line of its chorus. Excessively long lines, unsuccessful rhymes were removed from the original text by Davydov during the process of the song’s evolution: therefore, as a result, the song titled “Glorious Sea, Sacred Baikal” started to be considered a folk song.

The peak of the song’s popularity fell to Soviet times. Namely this song was sung by a choir of the enchanted workers at the dramatic city ending of the novel titled “Master and Margarita” by Bulgakov. “The Glorious Sea” has for a long time sounded as an accompaniment to the screensaver of one of Irkutsk television companies. This song was sung by many famous performers and choirs, as a rule, to the accompaniment of ensembles consisting of folk musical instruments. You can find one of the most “canonical” versions of the song by the link:


“Through the Wild Steppes of Transbaikalia”, “The Tramp”

This song is no less popular and also related to the theme of escape from prison. The song has become widely known since early 1900s, but it was sung among the prison environment in Siberia back in 1880s. Its authorship cannot not be reliably established. The repertoire of the performers of early 20th century already involved this song fact with I.K. Kondratyev as the lyrics author, however, the latter fact is often called controversial.

A pre-revolutionary record of the song performed by Nadezhda Plevitskaya and Semyon Sadovnikov are known. In 1940s a record performed by Petr Leshchenko was released in Bucharest.

In 1946 Lidia Ruslanova recorded the song in the Soviet Union. It was repeatedly performed by Pyatnitsky Choir. We give you the following version of the song as a “sample”: 



Since the time when the pathfinder Yermak had conquered Siberia many people who had problems with the law have always lived there. And even now the very word of “Siberia” is associated with exile, hard labor and prison. The culture that once created and adapted “The Glorious Sea” and “The Tramp” has existed until today. And although the theme of imprisonment or escape is not directly expressed in the song of Yevgeny Grigoryev (Zheka) and Aleksandr Dyumin, it is usually referred to as the genre of “Russian chanson” and “gangster song”. Who knows, perhaps it will become a classic piece of music in a few dozen years, like the songs of convicts of XIX century did.

The song is most popular in Irkutsk, for the author of the text did not forget to mention the city in his work. By following this link, you can see the performance as well: 


“Above Baikal”

The construction of BAM (Baikal-Amur Mainline) - one of the main Komsomol construction sites of the USSR - attracted many young people and bardic culture to Lake Baikal. The fans of the authors’ songs still hold festivals gathering a large number of people here. Text has always come first for the genre of bardic (author’s) music, therefore the songs of bards are filled with feelings, emotions and meanings. Surely, bards did not ignore Lake Baikal. A lot of songs are devoted to the lake, but we will emphasize one song among all the variety: Sergey Solovyov’s song titled “Above Baikal” - one of the most heartfelt songs about the Glorious Sea. You can hear it by clicking this link


“The Sky That Fell into Baikal”

The famous Siberian poet Mark Sergeev who wrote the official anthem of Irkutsk also wrote poems about Baikal. One of these poems was set to music by the group titled “Accent on Siberia” (“Aktsent na Sibir”). This song is presently being performed by the band at all major celebrations in the capital of the Baikal Region. And although this song is not as famous as the previous one, but it is gradually gaining popularity and becomes an integral part of the “Baikal Playlist”, catch it by the link. 


“Baigal Dalai”

We could not help but included a song in Buryat language into the “Baikal Playlist”. Buryats are the indigenous population of the lands around Lake Baikal, and, of course, the culture of this people includes songs about the sacred lake. This is an author’s song written by the young performer Dulma Sunrapova. The video attached to the text shows the stunning views of Lake Baikal, national costumes and features the elements of traditional Buryat music. However, despite this, the song is modern.


Of course, the list includes not all the songs about Baikal. Still, you can hear a variety of tunes and melodies that praise the Glorious Sea on the western and eastern coasts of the lake, in cities, towns and villages, on the beaches and in tourist centers. Who knows, maybe you, the reader of this article, will once write something about Baikal, as you immerse into the lake’s unique atmosphere.

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