Matvey Blanter, was famous Soviet composer. He was born in the small town of Pochep in 1903. He was born into a traditional Jewish family, his father was a tradesman and his mother was actor Titiana Vovsi, cousin of the legendary Jewish Soviet actor and director of the Moscow State Yiddish Theatre Solomon Mikhoels.
Soon after Blanter's birth, the family relocated to the prominent city of Kursk, where the young Blanter begun playing the violin and piano, sang in the quire and partook in theatre productions. By mid- 1920's Blanter had achieved national attention with a dance-pop hit "John Gray", and his success continued to flourish throughout the next decade. However, achieving such high echelons of success and fame in the 1930's, when the Soviet Union was becoming politically and culturally more stringent, was dangerous. During Stalin's great purges of the late 1930's so many - ordinary citizens and prominent figures alike - were arrested and shot, that the entire country felt their shock. Blanter's uncle, Evsey Blanter was one of the victims. Critics and historians agree - it was during this time that Blanter's music style shifted, and he began composing songs of much more patriotic nature with, often not-so-subtle, political undertones like "Stalin - Is Our Battle Glory" (1937) and "In the Fields of Our Beautiful Homeland" (1938).
It was also at this time that Blanter's collaboration with renown lyricist Mikhail Isakovsky began. Together the composed many hit songs, including "Katyusha" (1938), which to this day is, arguably, the main anthem of the Great Patriotic war (WWII, as it is known in Russia and the FSU countries). The song had it all ingredients of a major hit. It is a love ballad about a young woman longing for her lover, who is away at war. It sings subtle praises to the natural beauty of the Motherland, its "blooming apple and pear trees". And finally, the melody is indisputably victorious - she will guard his love, while the soldier guards the Motherland. It was so popular, that the Soviet Union's newly minted, super-secret and very effective truck-mounted rocket launchers were quickly nicknamed "Katyusha" by the Red Army Soldiers. Even today, according to polls conducted by the magazine "Russian Reporter", the song remains the 13th most popular song in Russia. If you've never heard the song, it's worth a listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AT75n6Wyw_Y , performed by the renown tenor and war-time radio personality, Georgiy Vnogradov.
All together Blanter composed over 200 songs which appeared in plays, films in concerts and over the radio waves. He was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1946, became a Honored Artists of the Soviet Union in 1947 and a Hero of Socialist Labor in 1983. Blanter passed away in Moscow in 1990.