Sunday, June 12, 2016

Russians Today Mark or Don’t Mark Their ‘Most Controversial State Holiday’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 12 – Twenty-six years ago, the First Congress of Peoples’ Deputies of the RSFSR adopted the Declaration of State Sovereignty of the RSFSR, an action the Russian government and many Russians at the time and later informally celebrated as Russia’s declaration of independence from the USSR and thus the nation’s Independence Day ( and

            But in the last decade, with Vladimir Putin regularly expressing regret about the demise of the Soviet Union which this declaration helped bring about, ever more Russians are uncertain about this holiday or even hostile to it, viewing it “in a certain sense as the most controversial of state holidays” (

            As points out in a headnote to its survey of the opinion of Duma deputies about this holiday, the view Russians have about the Day of Russia is “far from positive: in other words, a significant if not a large part of our fellow citizens do not understand what is being celebrated and consider it simply as another day off.”

            With each passing year, the news agency says, there have been proposals either to cancel this holiday altogether or to shift it to another date. Last year, some in the Duma proposed moving it to September 20 in memory of the 1862 erection in Veliky Novgorod of a monument to the 1000th anniversary of the foundation of Russia.

            This year, Gennady Zyurganov, the head of the KPRF, suggested shifting the holiday to July 28 which is already the day of remembrance of Prince Vladimir and the Baptism of Rus. The prince, the communist leader says, “played an historic role in uniting the peoples on our lands.” That makes for a better national holiday than June 12 which was about division.

            The breakaway communist group, the Communists of Russia, followed by proposing that the Day of Russia be shifted to November 7, the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, even though as points out, “many view this as an anniversary of destruction and not the foundation of the Russian state.”

            Into this mix has jumped Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the flamboyant leader of the LDPR. He is calling for celebrating as the Day of Russia September 21 which is the anniversary of the formation of a centralized Russian state. According to him, that would “unite everyone. Medieval Rus, the Empire, the Soviet period, and contemporary Russia.”

            “As always in such arguments, the position that is gaining ground is ‘don’t shake up society, leave everything as it is and don’t touch it,’” the news agency concludes. But of course, a better comment about Moscow’s inability to find a date everyone likes is Chernomyrdin’s observation in another context.

            As the former Russian prime minister famously pointed out, “we tried for something better but things turned out just like always.”

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