Unity Holiday Creating Discord
Thursday, November 3, 2005. Page 1.
Unity Holiday Creating Discord
By Francesca Mereu
A State Historical Museum employee preparing a Time of Troubles
exhibit Wednesday. The portrait is of False Dmitry.
Plain Text Attachment [ Download File | Save to Yahoo! Briefcase ]
A new holiday that will be celebrated for the first time on Friday is
supposed to help unite the country under a new patriotic banner.
But People's Unity Day, which is supposed to commemorate the day in
1612 that Moscow was liberated from Polish occupation, is stirring up
a heated debate in some circles, with critics calling it little more
than a celebration of Russian Orthodoxy triumphing over Roman
Catholicism. Moreover, the government has gotten the Nov. 4 date
wrong, historians say.
Ultranationalists, meanwhile, intend on Friday to stage a march
denouncing the "occupation" of Russia by illegal migrant workers, and
Mayor Yury Luzhkov is organizing a military march on Red Square for
Monday, the day of the Soviet-era holiday that the new holiday has
There is little debate about what happened in 1612: Prince Dmitry
Pozharsky and Kuzma Minin, a butcher from Nizhny Novgorod, led the
Nizhny Novgorod volunteer corps in forcing the Polish invaders out of
Moscow. The troops took Kitai-Gorod on Oct. 22 and drove False Dmitry
out of the Kremlin on Oct. 26.
The victories helped end the so-called Smutnoye Vremya, or Time of
Troubles, a period of internal strife and foreign intervention that
began in 1598 with the death of Tsar Fyodor I and lasted until 1613,
when the first Romanov assumed the throne and signed an order
restoring the Russian state. Mikhail Romanov presented Pozharsky with
the title Savior of the Motherland.
Valery Ryazansky, a United Russia deputy who co-authored the Kremlin-
backed bill that changed the holiday, said a new Russia needed new
holidays, and People's Unity Day was chosen because "it symbolizes
the will of the Russian people to unite to make this country better."
"I hope the new holiday will become a tradition in our country," he
The Kremlin picked Nov. 4 as the day to celebrate the event,
replacing a Nov. 7 holiday that commemorated the 1917 revolution in
Soviet times and was celebrated as the Day of Accord and
Reconciliation in the 1990s. Some Russian Orthodox Church officials
also strongly supported the change.
Yakov Krotov, a historian and the host of a religious program on
Radio Liberty, said the choice of the new holiday had "a clear
"The Kremlin was looking for a day to celebrate the victory of the
Orthodox Russians over the Catholic Poles, but they got the wrong
date," Krotov said.
Calls to the Moscow Patriarchate went unanswered, and Metropolitan
Kirill, head of the foreign relations department of the patriarchate,
made no mention of the issue at a news conference Wednesday. He did
say that the Time of Troubles was worse than World War II and that
the new holiday should not be linked to any anti-Polish sentiment in
The Kremlin has cast the holiday in a patriotic light, calling it an
opportunity to celebrate unity.
"You will never find a historian who will tell you that Nov. 4 marked
an important date in Russia's history," said Alexander Lavrentyev, a
senior official at the State Historical Museum, which opens an
exhibition about the Time of Troubles on Friday.
"It is very difficult to set a date for when the Time of Troubles
ended, but it was certainly not in 1612. It ended at the start of
1613," he said.
Ryazansky could not say why Nov. 4 had been picked, calling the
choice "a coincidence."
He also stressed that the holiday was not intended to offend Poland,
noting that the events happened 400 years ago.
The Polish Embassy declined to comment.
The Kremlin might have picked Nov. 4 because it is close to Nov. 7
and would allow people to enjoy the November break they have grown
used to, Communist Deputy Sergei Reshulsky said.
"This is just a fake holiday. Even the dates are wrong," he said.
"The Kremlin came up with this holiday just to make people forget
their communist past."
The United Russia-dominated State Duma approved the change last
November as part of a major holiday revamp that also extended the New
Year's holiday through Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 7, giving the
country a whole week of vacation.
An informal street poll of Moscow residents found that few knew much
about the holiday.
"It happened so many years ago. I don't understand why I should care
now," said Irina Ivanova, a 24-year-old economist who learned about
the holiday from the newspapers.
"I don't know what we are celebrating and, to be honest, I don't
care," said Lyudmila Knyazeva, a 49-year-old accountant. "What is
important is that I don't have to go to work. The weather is not cold
yet, and I might go to the dacha."
Dmitry Isakov, a 75-year-old pensioner, said he did not know that
Friday was a holiday. "When you don't work anymore, only traditional
holidays -- when the whole family gathers -- are important. I've
never heard of that day, and I don't know what it is," he said.
A nationwide survey by the independent Levada Center in mid-October
showed that only 8 percent of Russians were aware of the new holiday
and 63 percent opposed the abolition of the Nov. 7 holiday.
© Copyright 2005 The Moscow Times. All rights reserved.
2005.11.03 RIAN: Russian Orthodox leader speaks ahead of national holiday
NIZHNY NOVGOROD, November 3 (RIA Novosti, Olga Lipich) - Alexy II,
head of the Russian Orthodox Church, urged all Russians to respect
their national history, speaking Thursday ahead of National Unity Day
to be celebrated November 4.
"There can be no present or future without the past," Alexy II said
at the Nizhny Novgorod airport in northwestern Russia where he had
arrived to mark the national holiday.
He congratulated the Russian people on the upcoming holiday that
"starts on Nizhny Novgorod soil."
Alexy II said, "This holiday must come into our life because it is
"We remember the tragic events that shook Russia during the Time of
Troubles in Rus," he said. "The militia was formed here to liberate
Moscow under the leadership of Kozma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky."
On November 4, 1612, Moscow was liberated from Polish occupation. A
commemorative holiday will be celebrated for the first time this
year, replacing the former holiday of November 7, which marked the
1917 Bolshevik revolution.