Russia Day: Independence, or a Day in the Dacha

Author: Dimitry Paranyushkin (on 14 Aug 2009)

and photos from the Moscow


On June
12, Russia will celebrate yet another ambiguously named state
holiday. The foreign press
calls it “Russia’s Independence Day,” which

Russian football player wife

Photo by Alexander Reshetilov / WayToRussia.Net

raises the question, independence from what? So ambiguous is the answer
that many Russians just celebrate Extra Dacha Day.

The only considerable time Russians spent under arguably foreign rule was
300 years under “the Tartar yoke” that ended with the Middle Ages.
Some also say the “independence from” implies Soviet rule — although
it would be an understatement to say that most Russians don’t see the
Bolsheviks as occupiers.

Others stick with the more literal rendering that the declaration was meant
to gain autonomy from a wobbly Soviet Union.

Officially on this date in 1991, Russia adopted its declaration of sovereignty
from the Soviet Union. Hence, the official name of the holiday used to be
Day of the Adoption of the Declaration of Russia’s State Sovereignty, frequently
misnamed as Independence Day. Three years ago, the name confusion got to be
too much and the day became simply Russia Day.

The official line, however, doesn’t clarify too well what exactly Russians
are celebrating: “On this day we honor our motherland, our Russia. We
honor the country of a thousand years history and unique heritage, the country
which united on a huge space many peoples, territories and cultures,” President
Vladimir Putin was quoted by AP as saying in an address to the participants
in the festivities last year.

A poll by Romir (Russian Public Opinion and Market Research) showed that
33% of Russians didn’t give the day a second thought, simply enjoying a day
off. Another six percent thought it was just a holiday to celebrate the beginning
of summer. In reality, this day marks the first official step of the falling
apart of the Soviet Union, which was disbanded in the months to follow.

City festivities on June 12 are typical of practically any national holiday.
Last year, the Red Square ceremony featured a military parade of soldiers,
sailors and airmen. The presidential band played and singers performed the
most popular songs in Russian history, including tunes from the Soviet era.

All this against a backdrop of suspicion among some that there are just too
many holidays in Russia. As Pravda quipped last year, “at present, state
holidays in Russia make up about one month of days off in a year. According
to the information from the Ministry for Labor, every holiday costs about 12-14
billion rubles to the Treasury.”

But that’s not exactly a problem for the nation’s GDP. The catch
is quite simple: while too many holidays may mean time off work for city people,
it’s a life savor for the provinces, where many can use the time as a
good opportunity to work in their gardens.

And gardens — whether for growing potatoes or petunias — are
something a lot of Russians, even city dwellers, have. Many of those not so
well off depend on their plot of land — often given in Soviet times
to city dwellers with country roots — to make ends meet, providing
vegetables and a ruble or two after the extra cucumbers are sold off.

With that in mind, the Extra Dacha Day may not be so useless after all.



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