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Those Were The Days: the 1960s hit song and the 1920s Russian original

Alexander Mercouris

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Back in 1968 a song – Those Were The Days – sung by the British singer Mary Hopkins and produced by the Beatle Paul McCartney, became a chart-topping success.

It has remained popular ever since, as I was reminded when I heard it recently performed by a band in the palm court of a London hotel.

Here is a video of Mary Hopkins performing the song

At the time the song was credited to Gene Raskin, a New York architect turned singer/songwriter, who duly obtained copyright for both the lyrics and the music.

Most people listening to the song have noted its Russian feel.  However when I used to hear it in London in the 1970s the general view was that its origins were in the Jewish community of New York who of course had a strong historic connection to the former Russian empire.

In reality the music of the song derives from a purely Russian song written in 1924 by the Russian song writer Boris Fomin.  The original song Dorogoy Dlinnoyu was recorded in Moscow by its original singer Tamara Tseretelli, perhaps in 1925.  Here is the recording

It became known in the West when it was brought there by the Russian singer Alexander Vertinsky.  There is a recording of him singing it possibly in 1926

It is sometimes said that Raskin wrote wholly new lyrics for the song.  This is something of an overstatement.  Here are the lyrics of the original Russian song of the 1920s

They were riding in a troika with bells,
and in the distance there were glimmering lights.
I’d rather go now with you, my dears,
I’d rather distract my soul from the yearning.

[Chorus]
Along a long road, and on a moonlit night,
And with that song that flies away with jingle-jangle,
And with that ancient, seven-stringed one (guitar)
That tortured me so much at nights…

Living this way, without joy, without torture,
I do remember the past years
and your silvery hands
in a troika that flew away forever….

But it turns out our song was futile,
In vain we burned night in and night out.
If we have finished with the old,
Then those nights have also left us!

The days run on, multiplying the sorrows,
it is so hard for me to forget the past.
Some day, my dear,
you shall take me to bury (dead hero to the cemetery)

Out into our native land, and by new paths,
We have been fated to go now!
…You rode on a troika with sleigh bells,
[But] you’ve long since passed by!

And here by comparison are Raskin’s lyrics

Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And dreamed of all the great things we would do

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
La la la la…

Then the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If by chance I’d see you in the tavern
We’d smile at one another and we’d say

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days
La la la la…

Just tonight I stood before the tavern
Nothing seemed the way it used to be
In the glass I saw a strange reflection
Was that lonely woman really me

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days
La la la la…

Through the door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh my friend we’re older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days
La la la la…

Though the lyrics are different, both are songs of reminiscence, of someone old looking back on the pleasures of youth.

As might be expected the Russian song is distinctly more plaintive and down beat, and this is reflected in Tseretelli’s and Vertinsky’s performances.  By contrast Mary Hopkins’s joyous performance from 1968, when she was just 18, has always seemed to me weirdly discordant and at complete odds with the song’s lyrics.

Putting that aside, the runaway success of Those Were The Days, which continues still, does beg the question of whether within the rich mine of Russian Romance songs there might be other such nuggets waiting to be rediscovered.

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Suzanne GiraudHamletquestrosewood11BessarabynIsabella Jones Recent comment authors
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Isabella Jones
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Isabella Jones

When I first heard this song, back in the day, I said “it’s Russian” and I was laughed at. Turns out I was right after all.

Bessarabyn
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Bessarabyn

Me too ! Tanks

rosewood11
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rosewood11

Thank you so much for this article!!! I LOVE that song, and have hummed it off and on now for nearly 50 years. I didn’t know it was Russian, although I did kind of think it was of Jewish origin. I only knew whatever it was, it resonated with me from the first time I heard Mary Hopkins sing it. It just makes you sing along with it. It’s Infectious!!! Now that I know the origins, it all makes sense–along with many other things Russian that I just instinctively like. These videos were a joy to share. Thank you so… Read more »

Hamletquest
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Hamletquest

As well as “Those Were the Days” there’s also “The Carnival Is Over” a Russian folk song from 1883 which was adapted with English-language lyrics, written by Tom Springfield, for the Australian folk pop group The Seekers in 1965.
Also, the instrumental riff between verses in Greg Lakes “I Believe in Father Christmas, comes from the “Troika” portion of Sergei Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijé Suite, written for the 1934 Soviet film Lieutenant Kijé.

All quite memorable pieces of music.

Suzanne Giraud
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Suzanne Giraud

The similarity in the cadence and voice of Tamara Tseretelli presented here was VERY Edith Piaf – in all her songs – no?

Latest

Constantinople: Ukrainian Church leader is now uncanonical

October 12 letter proclaims Metropolitan Onuphry as uncanonical and tries to strong-arm him into acquiescing through bribery and force.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The pressure in Ukraine kept ratcheting up over the last few days, with a big revelation today that Patriarch Bartholomew now considers Metropolitan Onuphy “uncanonical.” This news was published on 6 December by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (running under the Moscow Patriarchate).

This assessment marks a complete 180-degree turn by the leader of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, and it further embitters the split that has developed to quite a major row between this church’s leadership and the Moscow Patriarchate.

OrthoChristian reported this today (we have added emphasis):

A letter of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine was published yesterday by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in which the Patriarch informed the Metropolitan that his title and position is, in fact, uncanonical.

This assertion represents a negation of the position held by Pat. Bartholomew himself until April of this year, when the latest stage in the Ukrainian crisis began…

The same letter was independently published by the Greek news agency Romfea today as well.

It is dated October 12, meaning it was written just one day after Constantinople made its historic decision to rehabilitate the Ukrainian schismatics and rescind the 1686 document whereby the Kiev Metropolitanate was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church, thereby, in Constantinople’s view, taking full control of Ukraine.

In the letter, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that after the council, currently scheduled for December 15, he will no longer be able to carry his current title of “Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.”

The Patriarch immediately opens his letter with Constantinople’s newly-developed historical claim about the jurisdictional alignment of Kiev: “You know from history and from indisputable archival documents that the holy Metropolitanate of Kiev has always belonged to the jurisdiction of the Mother Church of Constantinople…”

Constantinople has done an about-face on its position regarding Ukraine in recent months, given that it had previously always recognized the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate as the sole canonical primate in Ukraine.

…The bulk of the Patriarch’s letter is a rehash of Constantinople’s historical and canonical arguments, which have already been laid out and discussed elsewhere. (See also here and here). Pat. Bartholomew also writes that Constantinople stepped into the Ukrainian ecclesiastical sphere as the Russian Church had not managed to overcome the schisms that have persisted for 30 years.

It should be noted that the schisms began and have persisted precisely as anti-Russian movements and thus the relevant groups refused to accept union with the Russian Church.

Continuing, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that his position and title are uncanonical:

Addressing you as ‘Your Eminence the Metropolitan of Kiev’ as a form of economia [indulgence/condescension—OC] and mercy, we inform you that after the elections for the primate of the Ukrainian Church by a body that will consist of clergy and laity, you will not be able ecclesiologically and canonically to bear the title of Metropolitan of Kiev, which, in any case, you now bear in violation of the described conditions of the official documents of 1686.

He also entreats Met. Onuphry to “promptly and in a spirit of harmony and unity” participate, with the other hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in the founding council of the new Ukrainian church that Constantinople is planning to create, and in the election of its primate.

The Constantinople head also writes that he “allows” Met. Onuphry to be a candidate for the position of primate.

He further implores Met. Onuphry and the UOC hierarchy to communicate with Philaret Denisenko, the former Metropolitan of Kiev, and Makary Maletich, the heads of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” and the schismatic “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” respectively—both of which have been subsumed into Constantinople—but whose canonical condemnations remain in force for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The hierarchs of the Serbian and Polish Churches have also officially rejected the rehabilitation of the Ukrainian schismatics.

Pat. Bartholomew concludes expressing his confidence that Met. Onuphry will decide to heal the schism through the creation of a new church in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Metropolitan Onuphry’s leadership is recognized as the sole canonical Orthodox jurisdiction in Ukraine by just about every other canonical Orthodox Jurisdiction besides Constantinople. Even NATO member Albania, whose expressed reaction was “both sides are wrong for recent actions” still does not accept the canonicity of the “restored hierarchs.”

In fact, about the only people in this dispute that seem to be in support of the “restored” hierarchs, Filaret and Makary, are President Poroshenko, Patriarch Bartholomew, Filaret and Makary… and NATO.

While this letter was released to the public eye yesterday, the nearly two months that Metropolitan Onuphry has had to comply with it have not been helped in any way by the actions of both the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Ukrainian government.

Priests of the Canonical Church in Ukraine awaiting interrogation by the State authorities

For example, in parallel reports released on December 6th, the government is reportedly accusing canonical priests in Ukraine of treason because they are carrying and distributing a brochure entitled (in English): The Ukrainian Orthodox Church: Relations with the State. The Attitude Towards the Conflict in Donbass and to the Church Schism. Questions and Answers.

In a manner that would do any American liberal proud, these priests are being accused of inciting religious hatred, though really all they are doing is offering an explanation for the situation in Ukraine as it exists.

A further piece also released yesterday notes that the Ukrainian government rehabilitated an old Soviet-style technique of performing “inspections of church artifacts” at the Pochaev Lavra. This move appears to be both intended to intimidate the monastics who are living there now, who are members of the canonical Church, as well as preparation for an expected forcible takeover by the new “united Church” that is under creation. The brotherhood characterized the inspections in this way:

The brotherhood of the Pochaev Lavra previously characterized the state’s actions as communist methods of putting pressure on the monastery and aimed at destroying monasticism.

Commenting on the situation with the Pochaev Lavra, His Eminence Archbishop Clement of Nizhyn and Prilusk, the head of the Ukrainian Church’s Information-Education Department, noted:

This is a formal raiding, because no reserve ever built the Pochaev Lavra, and no Ministry of Culture ever invested a single penny to restoring the Lavra, and the state has done nothing to preserve the Lavra in its modern form. The state destroyed the Lavra, turned it into a psychiatric hospital, a hospital for infectious diseases, and so on—the state has done nothing more. And now it just declares that it all belongs to the state. No one asked the Church, the people that built it. When did the Lavra and the land become state property? They belonged to the Church from time immemorial.

With the massive pressure both geopolitically and ecclesiastically building in Ukraine almost by the day, it is anyone’s guess what will happen next.

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Ukrainian leadership is a party of war, and it will continue as long as they’re in power – Putin

“We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

RT

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Via RT…


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has branded the Ukrainian leadership a “party of war” which would continue fueling conflicts while they stay in power, giving the recent Kerch Strait incident as an example.

“When I look at this latest incident in the Black Sea, all what’s happening in Donbass – everything indicates that the current Ukrainian leadership is not interested in resolving this situation at all, especially in a peaceful way,” Putin told reporters during a media conference in the aftermath of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This is a party of war and as long as they stay in power, all such tragedies, all this war will go on.

The Kiev authorities are craving war primarily for two reasons – to rip profits from it, and to blame all their own domestic failures on it and actions of some sort of “aggressors.”

“As they say, for one it’s war, for other – it’s mother. That’s reason number one why the Ukrainian government is not interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Putin stated.

Second, you can always use war to justify your failures in economy, social policy. You can always blame things on an aggressor.

This approach to statecraft by the Ukrainian authorities deeply concerns Russia’s President. “We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been soaring after the incident in the Kerch Strait. Last weekend three Ukrainian Navy ships tried to break through the strait without seeking the proper permission from Russia. Following a tense stand-off and altercation with Russia’s border guard, the vessels were seized and their crews detained over their violation of the country’s border.

While Kiev branded the incident an act of “aggression” on Moscow’s part, Russia believes the whole Kerch affair to be a deliberate “provocation” which allowed Kiev to declare a so-called “partial” martial law ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election.

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When Putin Met Bin Sally

Another G20 handshake for the history books.

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Via Zerohedge


In the annals of handshake photo-ops, we just may have a new winner (much to the delight of oil bulls who are looking at oil treading $50 and contemplating jumping out of the window).

Nothing but sheer joy, delight and friendship…

…but something is missing…

Meanwhile, earlier…

Zoomed in…

And again.

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