The music was created around 1938 by Alexander Alexandrov, a great Russian composer who earlier started the Alexandrov Ensemble. The original lyrics were by Sergey Mikhalkov and Gabriel El-Registan and first written in 1943. They mentioned Joseph Stalin by his name as well as the Great Patriotic War. When Stalin died in 1953, the lyrics were no longer appropriate and so the music was performed without them. For the 60th anniversary of the October Revolution in 1977, the lyrics were brought back, but changed so that they do not mention Stalin or the war.
This song was in use until the Soviet Union broke down in 1991. Until then, most of the republics of the Soviet Union also had their own anthem, but the Russian SSR did not until 1990. After Russia became independent, the Russian SSR anthem, which used a melody by Mikhail Glinka and had no official words, became the Russian national anthem. But in 2000, the newly elected President, Vladimir Putin, decided to bring back the melody of the Soviet anthem. He had new words written to it by Sergey Mikhalkov, the same person who wrote the original Soviet anthem.
Below is the Russian and the English versions of the lyrics; both can be sung to the music. For the official versions in other languages of the Soviet Union, see other language versions.