The Day of Spring and Labour

I guess you already know that the 1st of May is a national holiday in Russia. But do you know the historical background of this day, both internationally and within Russia? In this post we will take a look at what this day stood for, and stands for today. We will, of course, start with some history.

Some sources state that celebrations at this time of the year have been going on for centuries. Such festivities could have been the Walpurgis-night in the Germanic countries or the celebration of Beltane in the Celtic countries.

The first of May as a day connected to workers’ rights however can “only” trace its roots back to late 19th century America. In 1886 a demonstration for a reduced working-day led to violence between police and protesters. Tragically, the protest ended with police opening fire on the protesters, leading to at least 10 deaths. This event would become known as the Haymarket-affair. Two years later, the first of May was named the International Day of the General Strike.

Soon, many other workers-rights advocates around the world started having their own demonstrations and marches on this day.

This was also the case in the Soviet Union. During the pre-revolution years the first of May was an underground event celebrated only in secret. During the Soviet years this day however got official status as a national holiday and celebrations were widespread. Probably one of the most recognizable images of these years, at least in western media, was the yearly celebrations on Moscow’s Red Square with party officials standing on the Lenin Mausoleum.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the first of May was renamed. From 1992 it is now known as «Праздник весны и труда», or “The Day of Spring and Labour”. Today, the beginning of spring is thus emphasized as well as the origins of the day.

Every large Russian city will see demonstrations tomorrow. If that, however, is not your cup of tea it will be a day off. Not only a day off, but maybe also the official start of spring? Why not take a walk, enjoy the sun or even visit a park or two?

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