“Tsar Nikolai” Performed by Fay Webern

“Tsar Nikolai”, a Yiddish bawdy ditty. Sung by Fay Webern, recorded by the Yiddish Book Center’s Wexler Oral History Project.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

My classmate from high school Eric Finkelman sent me this link to a video recording of Fay Webern from the Yiddish Book Center’s Wexler Oral History Project saying, he had heard this song as a kid as well. Let this be the blog’s small contribution to the anti-Putin sentiment we all feel.

Tsar Nikolai, yob tvayu mat.*
Zey nor mit veymen di host khasene gehat.
A kurve, a blate, an oysgetrente shmate,
Tsar Nikolai, yob tvayu mat!

Tsar Nikolai, go f__ your mother.
Just see with whom you married.
A thieving whore, a used up [sexually] rag
Tsar Nikolai, go f__ your mother.

* In Cyrillic it’s ‘ëб твою мать’ (or the way she’s singing it – ‘ëб ваю мат’).

צאַר ניקאָלײַ יאָב טווײַיו מאַט
.זע נאָר מיט וועמען דו האָסט חתונה געהאַט
.אַ קורווע, אַ בלאַטע, אַן אויסגעטרענטע שמאַטע
.צאַר ניקאָלײַ יאָב טווײַיו מאַט

Special thanks this week to Eric Finkelman, Yelena Shmulenson, Psoy Korolenko and the Yiddish Book Center.

2 Responses to ““Tsar Nikolai” Performed by Fay Webern”

  1. Martin Rutte Says:


    I remember my uncle saying those words yob tvayu mat to me as a kid. I had no idea what they meant. I do now!!! WOW!!

  2. Itzik Gottesman Says:

    Prof. Robert Rothstein writes: In the first volume of Mendele I published a response to a query about the obscene Tsar Nikolai ditty. Unfortunately that volume is no longer accessible and I don’t have a copy of what I sent, but I can more or less reconstruct my text, adding more information from a later posting. I reported that I had learned the song from my guitar-playing graduate-school roommate, who like Fay Webern, had learned it from his mother. The version that I remember is slightly different from hers:

    Tsar’ Nikolaike, yob [yop] tvoju mat’. Tsar Nikolaike, fuck your mother.
    Zey nor mit vemen du hast khasene gehat. Just see who you’ve married.
    A kurve a nase, an oysgetrente shmate. A wet whore, a fucked out rag,
    Tsar’ Nikolaike, yob tvoju mat’. Tsar Nikolaike , fuck your mother.

    The text was sung to a popular Russian folksong about a jaunty young merchant going to a fair
    (Ухарь-купец). The same melody was used for the Yiddish anarchist song “Hey, hey, doloy politsey” and the 1905 revolutionary song «Царь испугался, издал манифест: мёртвым свобода! живых под арест!» (The Tsar got scared [and] issued a manifesto: freedom for the dead, arrest for the living.)

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