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In anthem search, Russia looks 'back to the USSR'

After a decade of economic decline and social turmoil, many Russians find themselves nostalgic for reminders of Soviet glory.

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'Been away so long I hardly knew the place. Gee it's good to be back home.

"Leave it 'till tomorrow to unpack my case, honey disconnect the phone.

"I'm back in the USSR..."

If only it had been penned by a Russian, the former Beatles hit just might have been a contender in the frenzied public search for a new national anthem.

A recent Moscow TV news program featured people in the streets singing their personal favorites, which included not only official choices but Soviet-era marching songs, folk tunes, and a couple of ditties apparently made up on the spot.

While Russians are generally apathetic and exhausted after a decade of turbulence - not to mention new revelations about the Kursk, a nuclear submarine that went down with all hands in August - the quest seems to have seized the public imagination.

Anyone who watched the Sydney Olympics might be forgiven for thinking Russia already has an anthem. "A Patriotic Song," by Mikhail Glinka, was selected in 1993 by former President Boris Yeltsin. But Russian athletes complain about the uninspiring and wordless tune, and politicians say Mr. Yeltsin's decree lacked parliamentary consent. So President Vladimir Putin has given the State Council, a new Kremlin advisory body made up of regional governors, until Nov. 22 to recommend a replacement.

Not everyone supports the search. "All of the surging passions over this are silly," says Alexander Krishtanovsky, dean of sociology at Moscow's Higher School of Economics. "This has all blown up because Yeltsin wasn't good at doing things 100 percent legally, and various politicians see this anthem contest as a vehicle for pursuing their own agendas."

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