Hey, Slavs is an anthem dedicated to the Slavic peoples. Its lyrics were first written in 1834 under the title Hey, Slovaks (Hej, Slováci) by Samuel Tomášik and it has since served as the anthem of the Pan-Slavic movement, the Sokol physical education and political movement, the SFR Yugoslavia and as the transitional anthem of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. The song is also considered to be the unofficial second anthem of the Slovaks. Its melody is based on Poland Is Not Yet Lost, which has also been the anthem of Poland since 1926, but the Yugoslav variation is much slower and more accentuated.
In Serbo-Croatian, which used both the Latin and the Cyrillic alphabets, the title Hej, Slaveni was written:Hej, Slaveni or Hej, Sloveni (in Latin)
Хеј, Славени or Хеј, Словени (in Cyrillic).
In Macedonian the song is Ej, Sloveni (Еј, Словени), and in Slovene, it is Hej, Slovani. The original title in Slovak was Hej, Slováci.
The song was written by the Slovak Lutheran pastor, poet and historian Samuel Tomášik while he was visiting Prague in 1834. He was appalled that German was more commonly heard in the streets of Prague than Czech. He wrote in his diary:
"If mother Prague, the pearl of the Western Slavic world, is to be lost in a German sea, what awaits my dear homeland, Slovakia, which looks to Prague for spiritual nourishment? Burdened by that thought, I remembered the old Polish song Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła, kiedy my żyjemy
("Poland has not yet perished as long as we live."). That familiar melody caused my heart to erupt with a defiant Hej, Slováci, ešte naša slovenská reč žije
("Hey, Slovaks, our Slovak language still lives")... I ran to my room, lit a candle and wrote down three verses into my diary in pencil. The song was finished in a moment." (Diary of Samuel Tomášik, Sunday, 2 November 1834)
He soon altered the lyrics to include all Slavs and Hey, Slavs became a widely known rallying song for Slav nationalism and Pan-Slavic sentiment, especially in the Slavic lands governed by Austria. It was printed in numerous magazines and calendars and sung at political gatherings, becoming an unofficial anthem of the Pan-Slavic movement.
Its popularity continued to increase when it was adopted as the official anthem of the Sokol ("falcon") physical education movement, which was based on Pan-Slavic ideals and active across Austria-Hungary. In 1905, the erection of a monument to the Slovene poet France Prešeren in Ljubljana was celebrated by a large gathering of people singing Hey, Slavs. During the First World War, the song was often used by Slavic soldiers from opposite sides of the front line to communicate common nationalist sentiment and prevent bloodshed. Many Slovenian, Croatian and Serb members of Sokol conscripted into Austro-Hungarian army voluntarily surrendered to Serbian or Russian forces and often even changed sides. The song spread with them across the Balkans and Russia and remained popular in the inter-war period.
In Slovakia, the song "Hey, Slovaks" has been considered the unofficial song of the Slovaks throughout its modern history, especially at times of revolution. Although after the First World War the song "Nad Tatrou sa blýska" became the official Slovak part in anthem of Czechoslovakia and then again in 1993 in anthem of independent Slovakia, "Hey, Slovaks" is still considered a "second" anthem by many (usually more nationalist) people. Contrary to popular assumption, there was no official anthem of the clerofascist Slovak Republic (1939–45), though "Hej, Slováci" was used by the ruling party.
The first appearance of Hey, Slavs in Yugoslavia was during the Illyrian movement. Dragutin Rakovac translated the song, naming it Hey, Illyrians (Croatian: Hej, Iliri). Until the Second World War, the translation did not undergo many changes, except that the Illyrians became Slavs.
In 1941 the Second World War engulfed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The Axis powers invaded in early April, and the Yugoslav royal army disintegrated and capitulated in just two and a half weeks. Since the old Yugoslav anthem included references to king and kingdom, the anti-royalist Partisan resistance led by Josip Broz Tito and his Communist party decided to avoid it and opted for Hey, Slavs instead. The song was sung at both the first and second sessions of AVNOJ, the legislative body of the resistance, and it gradually became the de facto national anthem of Democratic Federal Yugoslavia (new Yugoslavia).
The old anthem was officially abandoned after liberation in 1945, but no new anthem was officially adopted. There were several attempts to promote other, more specifically Yugoslav songs as the national anthem, but none gained much public support and Hey, Slavs continued to be used unofficially. The search for a better candidate continued up to 1988, while in 1977 the law only named the national anthem as Hey, Slavs as a temporary anthem until a new one was adopted.
Hej, Slavs was the national anthem of the SFR Yugoslavia from 1943 to 1991 (48 years). With the formal adoption (inauguration) of Amendment IX to the Constitution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the anthem Hey, Slavs gained constitutional sanction on November 25, 1988. After the 43 years of continued use as the de facto anthem, the delegates simply brought the law in line with custom.
After the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991-92, when only Serbia and Montenegro remained in the federation, Hey, Slavs continued to be used as the anthem of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. That country was renamed to the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro in 2003 and was expected to adopt a new anthem, but since no agreement over national symbols could be reached, Hey, Slavs remained the anthem of the state union.
A hybrid of the Montenegrin national anthem "Oj, svijetla majska zoro" with the Serbian national anthem, "Bože Pravde" in alternating verses was proposed. However, this attempt was struck down after objections by the People's Party of Montenegro and the Socialist People's Party of Montenegro. Also proposed was the former Montenegrin national anthem and patriotic song "Onamo, 'namo", however this also fell through and Hey, Slavs remained the national anthem. Since Montenegro and Serbia became independent states in 2006, this issue is moot, and Hey, Slavs is no longer used as an official anthem by any sovereign country.
Even after the end of the federation, "Hey, Slavs" is sometimes still mistakenly played by organizers of sports events that involve Serbian teams as a guest side. Notable recent performances, some of which were intentional, include the 2013 UEFA U-19 Championship semi-final football match between Serbia and Portugal as well as the Olympiacos–Partizan ULEB Champions league basketball game in 2010. In 2015, French organizers of 2015 European Touring Car Cup season played Yugoslav anthem when Serbian racing driver Dušan Borković won 1st place at Circuit Paul Ricard.
The Yugoslav band Bijelo Dugme recorded a version of the song for their 1985 self-titled album. The Yugoslav and Slovenian band Laibach recorded an electronic version of the song, with lyrics in both English and Slovene, for their 2006 album Volk.