Russia also declared its independence. This was approved by the Supreme Soviet, and you know and remember that there was the Declaration on the Independence of Russia.
~ Boris Yeltsin
Today is Russia Day!
At a gathering at my home in Moscow on Friday, I was not surprised that a survey of Russians polled (HRH and Joe’s very clever girlfriend Tanya) had absolutely no idea what Russia Day is in aid of, even though today marks the 20th anniversary of the original Russia Day. Ask them about Border Guard Day, or Victory Day, and they are letter perfect, but Russia Day? But this is why nation building – to say nothing of being a groundbreaking chronicler of Russian holidays -- is such uphill work.
So, as a public service message, here is the skinny on Russia Day: Russia Day marks the moment on June 12, 1990 when (and pay attention, because this is slightly tricky) the Russian parliament declared Russian sovereignty over Russia. And if that sounds like a bunch of people who don’t have enough to do getting together to have a party, it actually was a significant moment for the newly-minted Russian Federation, which had been the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), the largest of the 15 Republics that made up The Soviet Union. Declaring State Sovereignty over this body made the Russian Federation a new nation, independent of the other 14. While the name of the country would be ratified later in 1991 (we’ll come to this in December), Russia Day marked the true moment of the birth of a nation.
But you can see why people like HRH (44% of Russians actually, according to a recent poll) remain confused about the holiday and refer to June 12th as “Independence Day.” This is understandable if you are French or American and you look at the color scheme and the choice of a summer date, as well as the fireworks in the evening. Reminds you vaguely of some other holidays celebrating that kind of thing around this time…though sadly the menu isn’t as wonderful.
“But,” asks Dee Dee Jansson, who hasn’t been here that long, “independence from whom?”
“That’s easy,” I say, using my favorite joke that never gets old, “independence from Georgia, Armenia, the Baltics, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, and the Stans.”
Being a fairly young holiday, Russia Day does not have a lot of engrained traditions, beyond the classic “Red Day on the Calendar” playbook: streets blocked off to cars, metal detectors in Red Square, cheesy bands playing in the squares to small exhausted looking children half-heartedly clutching Russian tricolors. As Russia Day falls this year on a Saturday, needless to say, we get Monday off, so most everyone I knew took advantage of this by either leaving Russia altogether (preferable) or going to the dacha, which I think they will regret as the forecast suggests violent thunderstorms that will very possibly be made worse by the cloud seeding that happens on days like this. A handful of journalists took the opportunity to craft some well-written opinion pieces like this one by Vladimir Milov, which I recommend, while the gang in power handed out some prizes for poetry, music, and science. Cheesy loud concert in Red Square followed by fireworks. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Now, if we could just introduce some fried chicken, cole slaw and potato salad into the mix somehow…
This post is part of The Stunt
Happy Russia Day! What did you get up to? What would be your ideal Russia Day menu? Don’t you think it should feature red, white, and blue martinis of some kind? Any suggestions?
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