Unity Day (Russia)
Unity Day (also called Day of People’s Unity or National Unity Day; Russian: День народного единства, Denʹ narodnogo yedinstva) is national holiday in Russian Federation held on November 4 (October 22, Old Style). It commemorates the popular uprising which expelled Polish–Lithuanian occupation forces from Moscow in November 1612, and more generally the end of the Time of Troubles and the Polish–Muscovite War (1605–1618).
The day's name alludes to the idea that all classes of Russian society united to preserve Russian statehood when there was neither a tsar nor a patriarch to guide them. In 1613 tsar Mikhail Romanov instituted a holiday named Day of Moscow’s Liberation from Polish Invaders. It was celebrated in the Russian Empire until 1917, when it was replaced with a commemoration of the Russian Revolution. Unity Day was reinstituted by the Russian Federation in 2005, since when the year 1612 has been celebrated instead of 1917 every November 4. The day is also the feast day of the Russian Orthodox icon of Our Lady of Kazan.
According to a recent poll (2007), only 23 percent of Russians know the name of the holiday, up from 8 percent in 2005. 22 percent identified the holiday as the Day of Accord and Reconciliation, the name of the Nov. 7 holiday in the 1990s. Only 4 percent knew that the holiday commemorates the liberation of Moscow from Polish invaders, down from 5 percent in 2005.
President Vladimir Putin reestablished the holiday in order to replace the commemoration of the October Revolution, known as The Day of Great October Socialist Revolution during Soviet period and as The Day of Accord and Conciliation in post-Soviet times, which formally took place on November 7. His decision angered some sections of the public, particularly the Communist Party, who pressed on with celebrations on Nov. 7. Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin took a limited action of changing the name of the holiday; by completely removing it, Putin sparked a controversy that continues today.
There have been concerns about the manifestations of ultranationalism during the celebrations of the National Unity Day. In November 2005 and 2006, rallies were held in Moscow at which demonstrators shouted "Russia for Russians!", made neo-Nazi salutes, and held placards with swastikas, anti-semitic and anti-immigration slogans. While President Putin and the former mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, have condemned such slogans and sentiments, xenophobic rhetoric is increasingly being adopted and manipulated by some politicians and officials.
See also