"Dark is the Night". The story of the legendary war song

Songs created in wartime are immortal heroes and witnesses of the Great Patriotic War. Tender and lyrical, humorous and patriotic, marching - they encouraged the soldiers to attack, reminded them of their homes and loved ones, and warmed their souls in the moments of breathing spell. Inspiring at the front line, and far the frontline and in the rear, the front-line song marched until the first victorious salvos of May 1945.

It is important for us, a generation that knows the horrors of war through films, fiction and veterans' stories, to remember and know these timeless songs, each one with its own peculiar story.
Composers and poets of several generations have been concerned by the theme of the Great Patriotic War, and in different years, they have composed many works that have become the finest examples of Russian song culture.

War songs were a separate genre of Soviet pop music. Each song conveyed the terrible atmosphere of wartime and, at the same time, strengthened the spirits of soldiers at the front and helped those who stayed in the rear. The war songs instilled faith and hope that the war would soon end in victory.
In Soviet films of those years, the most endearing moments were often the scenes with music. The soulful musical accompaniment often added depth to the story and evoked strong emotions in the audience.

In 2023, the song "Dark is the Night" celebrates its eightieth "anniversary". It was written by the composer Nikita Bogoslovsky (1913-2004) and the lyrics -- by the songwriter Vladimir Agatov (1901-1966). The song was composed in Tashkent in 1943, when the film director Leonid Lukov (1909-1963) was making a feature film called “Two Soldiers”*. In 1963, the Gorky Film Studio made a "new edition" of the film.

The idea for the song 'Dark is the Night' belongs to the film director Leonid Lukov. He had difficulties shooting the scene where the character of Mark Bernes, the soldier Arkady Dzyubin, writes a letter home. After many unsuccessful attempts, the director came to the idea that a lyric song sung in this episode would create the necessary emotional atmosphere and convey the feelings of the hero. From the memoirs of Nikita Bogoslovsky: "One evening Leonid Lukov came to me and said: "You see, I can't do the scene in the dugout without a song. Therefore, so excited, he narrated me the theme of the song, and its mood that I sat down to the piano, immediately, without a single stop played him the melody of "Dark is the Night", which then entered into the film without change. Bernes, sleeping off the exhausting filming, was awakened and a guitar player was found somewhere late in the evening. In order to record a song, they had to get into the sound stage, which was locked at night. They had to break down the door. Amazingly, the director and his team were able to record the song and shot the episode in one take.

Arkady Dzyubin, the character played by Mark Bernes, sang "Dark is the Night" incredibly soulfully and heartfelt in a leaky dugout not far from the front. Everyone who saw the film "Two Soldiers" remembers this episode. What is this song about? It is about the simple human feelings that loving people have for each other, being at a distance and putting their lives in danger. A man protects his wife and child at the front so the enemy does not get to his homeland. A woman, shielding her child with her body, guarding his peace, in this way protects her beloved husband as well. She waits for him at home, confident that he will return safe and sound.

Millions of people remembered the heartfelt words and simple melody of the song for many years, it was sung in the front-line trenches and deep in the rear, and it was translated into many languages around the world. Women rocked their children to this song, remembering every moment those, who were fighting for their motherland at that time. The song 'Dark is the Night' became a classic in the performing style of Mark Bernes, and the famous film contributed to it a lot. Meanwhile, even before the film was released, Leonid Utyosov, who received the sheet music for the song from Nikita Bogoslovsky in 1943, recorded the song on a gramophone record. That same year “Dark is the Night” was also recorded by Mark Bernes in the Moscow studio. During its existence, many singers performed the song. The list of performers includes 26 artists, not counting Leonid Utyosov and Mark Bernes.

On the eve of Victory Day, we invite you to listen to a recording of the song "Dark is the Night", sung by Mark Bernes and by Leonid Utyosov.


*Film is based on the story “My Countrymen” by Lev Slavin, telling of the unbreakable frontline friendship of two Soviet soldiers during the Great Patriotic War.