04 November 2010

Russia's November Holiday

I am enjoying a four-day weekend in Moscow, thanks to the "National Unity Day" holiday in Russia.  This post-Soviet holiday replaces a Soviet 7 November holiday.  That 7 November holiday marked the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, when the "destruction of capitalism" and all those bad things were joyously celebrated.

7 November in USSR:  Celebrating Years of Stunned Growth

As it turns out, the destruction of capitalism in Russia was not such a good thing as it severely slowed progress in this very intellectually and resource rich country and created many destructive behavior patterns (more on this later).  But, at least, the holiday was a good thing, and that much of the Soviet legacy had to be preserved.  In search of an early November event that could be celebrated with fervor, Russians reached back to 1612 when they liberated Moscow from Polish rule (as part of a longer series of wars from 1605-1618 during the Times of Trouble).

Foreign Invasion of Moscow in 1605
False Dmitriy enters Moscow on 20 June 1605. Painting by Klavdiy Lebedev.

Having visited Warsaw in October of this year, I learned that living Polish memory defines Russia the Soviet Union as the invaders and the Poles as the invaded.  Although I did not ask this question directly, I would believe that nearly all Poles would be bemused - or perhaps offended - by the virtue of a Russian celebration of freedom from their Polish oppressors.  To signify their bitterness about years of effective Soviet rule over their country, many Warsaw residents point out the elephantine Pałac Kultury i Nauki [Palace of Culture and Science] in a dialog similar to the following:
Varsovian:  Did you see that building in center of Warsaw?  
Amir: You mean the Palace of Culture and Science, the gift from the Soviet Union?
Varsovian:  Yes, that gift; the gift that we paid for for fifty years.
To Poland, From Joseph Stalin, with Love

Regrettably, the National Unity Day has become a Russian ultra-nationalist focal day of sorts.  This is yet another ironic twist for Russia's early November holiday.  Unfortunately, the ironic twist is of a sad and a sick sort, given what Russia suffered at the hands of Nazis who had a similar foul and far-right ideology as their modern-day Russian skinhead brethren.

I Shaved My Head and Sold My Soul


  1. Russian-Polish relations have indeed long history, something like (at a first approximation) the UK-France long-term conflict.

  2. Britain and France is not in conflict. Since WWII the British and French have managed to develop their relations to the point of joint military divisions. Ignoring Britains delusional link with the US, France and (ironically) Germany are probably Britains most valued neighbours. There is very little predjudice left between these countries never mind the scale of neo-nazi activity currently being observed in 'liberated' Russia. what would their grandfathers say? "...Stalingrad"

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