In 1833, the Russian czar Nicolas I decided to have a native Russian anthem composed, instead of using that of Great Britian, which had been the national anthem (with different words) to that point. He tasked his friend and composer Alexey Lvov with the duty. Lvov, anxious by the importance of the task was at first unable to compose anything. However, one evening the melody came to him and was able to compose it within a few minutes. He then went to the poet Vasily Zhukovsky who wrote the lyrics to the anthem (as well as the previous one). First performed on December 18 or 25 of that year, it became the official national anthem under the title “God Save the Czar” on December 31. (It was also the shortest anthem in use at the time, with only 16 bars (not including repeats)).
The anthem, as well as the French “La Marseillaise” can also be heard near the end of Tchaikovsky’s famous work “The 1812 Overture”, which is a chronicle of the battle of that year between France and Russia. (Interestingly, neither of these anthems were the national anthems of these countries in 1812 (in fact, neither nation had an official anthem that year), but they were each country’s respective anthem in 1882, the year the overture was composed.) Currently, it is also a common hymn used in Russian Orthodox church services, and the tune has been used for various English-language hymns and official songs of schools, universities, and fraternal institutions.
Special thanks to: Victor Nyberg and Curtis Saxton for some of this information, and Pavel Zinovatny for some additional information as well as the music file and the sheet music.