Today is Russia Day, a day that many people consider a simple day off of work and a day which others consider a fun day to celebrate Russian patriotism and Russian culture. But it is also a controversial day.
Russia is a state which has faced off aggression and occupation from numerous world powers, namely Poland-Lithuania, France and Germany. Russia has also fought numerous wars with Turkey, the latter-most prior to the First World War ended in 1878 and insured the independence of Orthodox Christian southern Europe from centuries of Ottoman imperial rule.
Russia’s greatest victory came in 1945 when the Soviet Union destroyed the fascist forces of Adolf Hitler. This achievement is celebrated on the 9th of May as Victory Day across Russia, parts of the former Soviet Union, Serbia and beyond.
In many ways, Victory Day is the most important patriotic day in the Russian calendar year, it is a time to celebrate a great victory of the Russian state, Russian people and fraternal allies. Contrary to what some troublemakers say, it is a non-partisan day where the heroism of ordinary people is celebrated, it was a triumph of the Russian spirit over the wicked fascist ideology.
Throughout the Soviet period the 7th of November was both a partisan and patriotic holiday, where people braved the winter chill to celebrate the October Revolution, a day loved by Communists but hated by those who consider Bolshevism a menacing force which destroyed Russia’s Orthodox traditions, albeit temporarily.
In modern Russia, the October Revolution is still celebrated by Communists, but it is not a national day.
In 2005, President Putin established Unity Day which celebrates the 4 November 1612 expulsion of Polish occupiers from Moscow by Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky. Unity Day is also a celebration of reconciliation between all modern factions in Russia. On this day leaders of all major parties can be seen standing together, united by their love for Russia in spite of political differences.
Russia Day however remains more ambiguous, it was on the 12th of June in 1990 that Boris Yeltsin declared the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic as a sovereign entity within the Soviet Union.
It was a brazen political move by Yeltsin which had the effect of throwing the entire USSR in chaos and created a power struggle between Yeltsin as Russian President and Mikhail Gorbachev as Soviet President.
June the 12th 1990 was a sad day for Russia, it marked one of the signposts of a road to decline throughout the troublesome and tragic 1990s.
Russia’s super-power status and national dignity has been restored largely thanks to the bold and wise leadership of President Putin, but strangely Russian’s still celebrate a day that was first called Day of the Adoption of the Declaration of Sovereignty of the Russian Federation before President Putin changed it to the less controversial Russia Day in 2002.
Few nations in the world celebrate a day that represents a national failure and national decline. This is why Russians feel deeply emotionally attached to the 9th of May but have few connections to the 12th of June.
Of course it is a good thing to celebrate Russia, but it ought to be celebrated on a day of triumph rather than one of tragedy.
Here are some ideas for a more suitable day for a national celebration:
21 February: When in 1613 Tsar Mikhail I came to the throne, beginning the Romanov dynasty. It represented the beginning of the end of Polish aggression against Russia.
16 January: The day in 1533 when Ivan IV Vasilyevich became the first Tsar of Russia.
3 March: The day when in 1878 Russia won a decisive victory against Turkey, thus insuring the freedom of south and south-east European Orthodox Christians against Ottoman imperialism.
14 December: The day in 1812 when Russia decisively destroyed Napoleonic ambitions of domination…although it would be a very cold holiday as Napoleon himself found out the hard way.
12 April: The day when in 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. He remains a Russian hero whose life is celebrated world-wide.
These are just some positive days during which one could celebrate important triumphs in Russian history.