Pierre Degeyter

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Degeyter, Pierre


Born Oct. 8, 1848, in Ghent, Belgium; died Sept. 27, 1932, in St. Denis, near Paris. French composer.

Degeyter composed the music for the international proletarian hymn the Internationale. He joined the French Communist Party in 1920. Born into a working-class family that later moved to France, Degeyter made furniture and models for a living and worked at enterprises in Lille from the time he was a child. He sang in a chorus, studied music theory, and learned to play musical instruments.

Degeyter joined the revolutionary movement and was the leader of the Workers’ Lyre, a singing society organized by the Lille branch of the Workers’ Party. For this society he wrote the music to E. Pottier’s verses, the Internationale, in 1888. The music was published under Degeyter’s last name, omitting his first name. Later, the right-wing socialists, who were opposed to Degeyter, took advantage of this omission and forced the composer’s brother Adolphe to dispute the authorship of the song. In 1922, after prolonged legal proceedings, the highest court of appeals confirmed Pierre Degeyter’s rights.

Degeyter’s other songs, some of which were not published, include Communard (words by Pottier), Forward, Working Class, Hammer and Sickle, and The Triumph of the Russian Revolution (words by Degeyter). From 1902 he lived in St. Denis. In 1928, he visited the USSR. A collection of Degeyter’s songs as arranged by V. A. Belyi was published in Moscow in 1962.


Zevaes, A. “‘Internatsional’ i ego avtory.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1933, no. 2.
Rubakin, A. “P’er Degeiter—avtor ‘Internatsionala’.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1956, no. 2.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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