Thursday, 12 June 2008

Russia Day - a national day with a date which inspires ambivalence

Today is an official holiday in Russia, marking the country’s ‘national day’. The 12th of June was first decreed a holiday in 1991 when Boris Yeltsin’s government instigated Independence Day. Given that Russia has not undergone foreign occupation since Moscow freed itself of the ‘Tartar yoke’ in 1480, the day is viewed with ambivalence by the majority of Russians. The nominal ‘independence’ to which Yeltsin was alluding was a declaration by the Russian Congress of People’s Deputies in 1990 that Russia had become independent from the federal authority of the Soviet Union.

The holiday has since undergone two name changes, and it is now known simply as ‘Russia Day’. However, despite Putin’s attempts to harness the day to an all-encompassing sense of national pride, “on this day we honour our motherland, our Russia. We honour the country of a thousand years history and unique heritage, the country which united on a huge space many peoples, territories and cultures”, it retains its link to an historical event which represents, not a moment in Russia’s history to be celebrated, but rather a missed opportunity, the dismemberment of a state and the beginning of a period of great economic hardship.

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