Originally the song was known as Как много девушек хороших (Such a lot of nice girls). It was written by Vasily Lebedev-Kumach for the 1934 Soviet fim musical Jolly Fellows. The music was by Isaak Dunayevsky. The first singer of the song was Leonid Utyosov.
In 1935, Pyotr Leshchenko started to sing the song in Argentine tango fashion. Although music by Leshchenko was officially disliked in the Soviet Union, the version as sung by Leshchenko gradually became the norm. However, in the former Soviet Union, the song is still perceived as a traditional Russian romance, whereas elsewhere in the world, the song is seen exclusively as an Argentine tango song. This tango version was always known as "Serdtse". The title change may actually have been a simple mistake, since "Serdtse" was also the title of another song in the musical.
In 1984, a collection of songs and poems by Vasily Lebedev-Kumach was published in Moscow. The text of this song was arranged in the Leshchenko fashion, but the title was quoted as "Kak horosho na svete zhit' !" (How great it is to be alive!)
The Russian Romance version of the song has been translated in Polish as "Jak wiele jest ładnych dziewczyn".
(A)Kak mnogo devushek horoshih
Kak mnogo laskovyh imyon
No lish' odno iz nih trevozhit
Unosya pokoy i son - kogda vlyublyon
(B)Lyubov nechayanno nagryanet
kogda eyo sovsem ne zhdyosh
i kazhdyi vecher srazu stanet
Udivitel'no horosh - i ty poyosh'
(R)Serdtse - tebe ne hochetsya pokoya
Serdtse - kak horosho na svete zhit'
Serdtse - kak horosho chto ty takoe
Spasibo serdtse, chto ty umeesh' tak lyubit'
(the whole song is then repeated instrumentally only, except for the last two lines)
There're so many nice girls!
There're so many endearing names!
But only one of them bothers me,
keeping away my calm and sleep - when I am in love.
Love accidentally takes you by the throat
when you least expect it
and every evening immediately gets
wonderfully nice - and then you sing
Heart - there is no way to keep you calm
Heart - how great it is to be alive in this world
Heart - how great it is that you are like that
Thank you, heart, for being so good at the art of love
The Russian pop group Aqvarium in its 1996 rendition replaced the second (instrumental) part with
(C)Ya Vam pishu, chego ty bole?
Chto ya mogu eshcho skazat'?
Теper' ya znayu - v Vashey vole
Меnya prezren'em nakazat'
(D)Nо mimо teshchinogo doma
Ya vsyo zh bez shutok ne hozhu:
То "Тihiy Don" v оknо zаsunu
То "Kаmа-Sutru" pоkаzhu.
Note that Akvarium called the song "Serdtse/Kak mnogo devushek horoshih". In the same year, Sergey Penkin did the same.
Line 3 and 4 of A are sometimes, e.g. by Konstantin Sokolsky rendered as:
"no lish' odno menya trevozhit
otgonyaya noch' i son, kogda vlyublyon"
While the second change ("chasing away my nightly sleep") does not affect the meaning, dropping "of them" in the third line may actually mean that the singer is not troubled by a girl's name, but by something else.
The film Jolly Fellows was shown in Tel-Aviv and the Israeli poet Nathan Alterman wrote new lyrics to be used in the musical "Tel-Aviv Ha'Ktana", entitling the song "Rina". The new words are a sardonic dialogue between two lovers.
Apart from the argument about the title, and about the original text (some sources say the author of the lyrics had a longer text in mind) there is also a problem with the exact meaning of the word "nice" ("horoshiy"). Some translate as "good, well-mannered" (not naughty - a humorous approach), others translate as "pretty".
The song has been claimed as typically Ukrainian, Odessite, Jewish and Roma (sometimes at the same time). Three of the artists involved in the genesis were in fact Russian-speaking Ukrainians: the composer who was of Jewish descent (but from Kharkiv), and the two singers who were from Odessa or born nearby.