The Day of Unity arrives again!
You may be forgiven for not hearing about it but, although less-known than its fellow national holidays, the Day of Unity is a grand commemoration of the unbreakable union of all peoples that make up the Russian Federation! Today, the people of Russia will celebrate this relatively new concept with verve and excitement.
The Day of Unity commemorates the day that Кузьма Минин (Kuzma Minin) and Дмитрий Пожарский (Dmitry Pozharsky), two men from Nizhny Novgorod, liberated Moscow from a combined army of Poles and Lithuanians in 1612. This victory represents the end of the Time of Troubles in Russian history and is celebrated due to the way in which the Russian people, with no clear ruler, did away with social classes and united as one to drive the oppressors out of their lands. During the Soviet era, it was replaced with a new holiday on 7th of November, to commemorate the October Revolution of 1917. However, Vladimir Putin re-installed the Day of Unity as a public holiday in 2005, which amusingly means that many Russians are not entirely sure why they they have a public holiday on the 4th of November!
The day itself is often seen as a substitute for the public holiday which used to be on the 7th November, but many events occur on the 4th of November. In St Petersburg and Moscow, a special service is held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, and a religious procession takes place in both cities. This is because the Day of Unity coincides with the feast day of Our Lady of Kazan, the most sacred icon of the Russian Orthodox Church! Flowers are laid at the foot of the magnificent statue of Minin and Pozharsky, which stands in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral on the Red Square.
The Day of Unity is not just about religion. As it represents the unity of the Russian people, there are many concerts and exhibitions that will be open which detail the cohesiveness of the Russian spirit throughout history. Although it is quite an unknown day, the fact that most Russians have a day off work means that the streets of Russia will be busy and vibrant, so enjoy the atmosphere if you are struggling to think of things to do!