The Russian Volunteer Fleet March

Tchaikovsky Research

The Russian Volunteer Fleet March (Русский добровольный флот марш) (TH 140 ; ČW 149) [1] was written by Tchaikovsky in 1878 to help raise money for victims of the war between Russia and Turkey.

Movements and Duration

There is one movement: Tempo di Marcia. Marziale. Allegro moderato (C major, 122 bars), lasting around 4 minutes in performance.


At the end of 1877, Pyotr Jurgenson approached Tchaikovsky with a commission to write a "Skobelev March" (Скобелев марш) as a response to the war between Russia and Turkey, the Russian forces being commanded by the General Mikhail Skobelev. Tchaikovsky flatly refused: "I'm not taking up your suggestion, because I cannot. It's so terribly vulgar" [2].

In April 1878, the Russian government formed a committee to organize a Volunteer Fleet and to appeal for donations towards the war effort. It seems that as a result of this, Pyotr Jurgenson repeated his request, this time suggesting that it was Tchaikovsky's patriotic duty to agree to it [3]. The march was composed on 24 April/6 May at Kamenka, the same day that Jurgenson's letter was received (according to the author's date on the manuscript). That very day the manuscript was dispatched to Jurgenson in Moscow together with a letter: "I have written the march and am sending it to you. No fee is necessary, because I too am a patriot, but I ask you not to include my name, rather, to devise whatever pseudonym you wish." [4].

In fact, Tchaikovsky had already signed the manuscript score with the pseudonym: 'P. Sinopov', after the Turkish Black Sea port of Sinop (now Sinope), where on 18/30 November 1853 several Ottoman warships had been destroyed in a battle with the Russian Navy.


The march was published by Pyotr Jurgenson in May 1878. The cover of the edition contained the note: "All proceeds, with the exception of publishing costs, will be donated to the fund for acquiring a cruiser".

The piece was included in volume 52 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works (1948), edited by Anatoly Drozdov (as The Volunteer Fleet March), and in volume 69a of the New Complete Edition of Tchaikovsky's works (2008), edited by Polina Vaidman and Lyudmila Korabelnikova [5].


Tchaikovsky's manuscript score is now preserved in the Russian National Museum of Music in Moscow (ф. 88, No. 116) [view].


See: Discography

External Links

Notes and References

  1. Entitled The Volunteer Fleet in TH, and The Russian Volunteer Fleet (Русский добровольный флот) in ČW.
  2. Letter 663 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 27 November/9 December 1877. Major-General Mikhail Dmitriyevich Skobelev was a commander of the Russian army in the war against Turkey of 1877–78.
  3. See Letter 818, 24 April/6 May, and Letter 828, 15/27 May 1878, both to Pyotr Jurgenson.
  4. Letter 818 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 24 April/6 May 1878.
  5. In this edition the title was translated into English as "Russian Volunteer Navy. March".