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Vasiliy Agapkin


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For starters, the name is mis-spelled. It is Vasily Agapkin (1884-1964). He was a military musician, conductor, and composer.

His most famous work is “Proshchanye Slavyanki,” or “The Farewell of a Slavyanka (Slavic Woman).” Agapkin was the son of a freight handler, who grew up an orphan. He served in the Russian Army; then, in 1912, went to Tambov to try to enroll in a music school. Since he had no money, he re-enlisted as a trumpeter. While there, the First Balkan War broke out, causing Agapkin to write his famous march. The only printed copy which survived was kept in Agapkin’s family archive. The tune caught on throughout Russia in only a few days. During World War I, Russian troops left for the front to the sounds of the march.

During the Revolution, Agapkin joined a Red Army Hussar regiment and became the conductor of its brass band. Afterwards, he was transferred to Moscow where he served at a military school. In his spare time, he and his band played in Moscow’s Hermitage Gardens. The band was disbanded during World War II and Agapkin was stationed with the military unit of the Moscow garrison. Because of his age, he was, however, never sent to the front. After the war, Agapkin’s march was played repeatedly to welcome home Russia’s soldiers.

Besides the Slavyanka March, Agapkin composed dozens of other marches and waltzes. He is buried in Vagankovskoye Cemetery in Moscow under a marble obelisk engraved with the initial notes of his famous march.

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