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The Day of Unity in Russia. History, meaning, traditions.

Welcome to the new edition of Matryoshka’s Diary. Some of you might know that on the 4th of November Russian people celebrate the Day of Unity which is a public holiday in Russia. Unity Day calls for tolerance between various ethnic and religious groups in the Russian Federation. Today our author Elena will share some facts about the Russia’s newest holiday.

History of Russian Unity Day

It was created in 2004 and celebrates the liberation of Moscow from Polish troops in 1612, which was led by Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky. This event marked the end of the “time of troubles” and foreign intervention in Russia. It led to Mikhail Romanov’s accession to the throne. The event was marked by a public holiday which was celebrated in Russia on the 22nd of October between 1649 and 1917. This day is celebrated to recognise the unity of all classes of the Russian society to save Russia, even though there was no Tsar to lead them.

How is Russian Unity Day celebrated?

It is generally assumed that the day has been reinstated as a replacement for the Revolution Day (November 7th) that celebrated the 1917 October Revolution, which had been removed as a national holiday. Without a replacement, Russians would have been faced with a stretch from June to January without a national holiday.

What do people do on this day?

Russians celebrate Unity Day in many ways. Some may lay flowers to the monuments of national heroes, Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky, who led a popular uprising that freed Moscow from occupation forces on the 4th of November 1612.
Russian Orthodox Christians may attend a church service to honour Our Lady of Kazan, one of the most important Russian Orthodox icons. The 4th of November is this icon’s feast day. The church service usually ends with a procession. Many politicians, public and religious figures stress in their speeches the need for unity of all ethnic and religious groups in the Russian Federation. Concerts and exhibitions take place on this day.
However, for many Russians, the 4th of November is just another day off or a substitute for a holiday that was held on the 7th of November in the Soviet times.

Public life

The 4th of November is a public holiday in the Russian Federation. Schools, post offices, public buildings and most businesses are closed on this day. Public transport schedules may vary due to religious processions and political demonstrations. If the 4th of November falls on a weekend, the public holiday usually moves to the following Monday.

Historical background

Unity Day commemorates a Russian popular uprising that freed Moscow from Polish-Lithuanian occupation forces on the 4th of November 1612. Leaders of the uprising, Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky, became national heroes. In 1649, Russian Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich made November 4 (October 22 of the then used Julian calendar) a public holiday. Many Russians celebrated this day until 1917. In 1918, the Bolsheviks replaced it with a new holiday, November 7, to commemorate the Revolution of 1917. The 4th of November became a public holiday in 2005, when the Russian Parliament removed November 7 from the list of official public holidays and introduced Unity Day.

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