Real Russia Blog

Victory Day in Russia
9
May
2017

Victory Day in Russia

Victory Day commemorates the Victory of the Soviet Union over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945

Russian holidays reflect all aspects of Russian history and traditions. One of our national favourites is Victory Day, which is celebrated, unlike Europe, on 9th May, as Germany’s surrender was signed in Berlin late in the evening on 8th May when it was already 9th May in Russia, due to the difference in time zones.

9th May in Russia is a day of remembrance and joy, but, as the phrase goes, it is a joy ‘with tears in the eyes’. During the four years of war, the USSR lost around 25 million citizens. In Russia and in other countries of the former Soviet Union, there is no family who was not affected by the war with Nazi Germany. So, the social memory about it is still alive and is being kept by virtue of different events and ceremonies, which traditionally take place in Russia on Victory Day.

Public celebrations

On the 9th May, a non-working day, celebrations and commemorative events are held all across Russia, with military parades, fireworks and other ceremonies. One of the most popular events is the tasting of the ‘soldier’s meal’ – made up of boiled barley groats – followed by drinking 100 grams of vodka, in remembrance of the meagre rations given to the soldiers.

Across Russia, a ceremony will take place in which flowers are laid at the feet of the Unknown Soldier, and a minute of silence is held, for soldiers killed in battles, members of resistance movements, prisoners of deaths camps and all the civilians, who perished to the hardships of sieges and wartime.

In the parks and squares throughout Russia, to the sound of the old tunes performed by orchestra, younger generations honour veterans, give them flowers (usually red carnations), thank them and ask for wartime stories.

The main military show of this day – parades – are usually invitation only events, and most people can see them only broadcasting on TV. On this day, before and after the Parade broadcasting, TV channels broadcast well-known, mostly tearful, Soviet films about the Great Patriotic War. People gather around the festive table to remember the passed-away relatives and to express gratitude for the peaceful sky over their heads.

Fireworks traditionally conclude the day of the commemoration.

Victory Parade

The first Victory Parade was held on 24 June 1945 on Red Square in Moscow. Since then, Victory Parade has been an integral part of the Victory Day celebrations, aimed at honouring the heroic sacrifices of the past and demonstrating the might of the country and its latest military hardware.

Military parades take place in major Russian cities, while the biggest parade always takes place in Moscow’s Red Square. Last year the Moscow parade “involved 10,000 military staff, 135 armoured vehicles, and 71 aircraft” (based on information from bbc.co.uk).

The State Historical Museum on the Red Square On Victory Day, Moscow.

Immortal Regiment

The Immortal Regiment movement arose to commemorate the heroical deed and bravery of those who fought in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945.

Starting in 2009, this march became so popular that in 2016, in Moscow alone, it comprised of over 700,000 people. Beyond that, thousands of people in more than 50 countries around the world took part in the marches carrying the portraits of their family members who fought on the battlefronts of World War II.

As the founders of this movement say, the new war starts when the generation, who forgot what the war is, have grown up. Therefore, the Immortal Regiment aims to preserve and defend the memory of the heroes of the Great Patriotic War.

Immortal Regiment march in Moscow

If you are keen on Russian history and would like to feel the moving power of Victory Day or other holiday in Russia, contact out travel specialists to find out your best options.

Real Russia Blog

International Women`s day in Russia
8
March
2017

International Women`s day in Russia

Holiday which celebrates Womanhood and Spring

This day celebrates all womanhood, and announces spring; however, the weather can still be chilly like in winter, but the warm sun, smell of melting snow and birds’ singing is a reminder of the beauty of spring.

One hundred years ago

International Women’s day played a great role in the Russian Revolution of 1917. As Revolutionary Leon Trotsky said, it “inaugurated the revolution.” As described in Wikipedia, “In 1917 demonstrations marking International Women's Day in Saint Petersburg (a capital at that time) on the last Thursday in February (which fell on March 8 on the Gregorian calendar) initiated the February Revolution. Women in Saint Petersburg went on strike that day for 'Bread and Peace' – demanding the end of World War I, an end to Russian food shortages, and the end of czarism.“ Four days after that demonstration the Russian Emperor resigned, and Russia ceased to be a monarchy.

After the October Revolution, in 1918, the 8th of March became a public holiday.

How do people celebrate now?

Men offer gratitude to all women, no matter old or young, married or unmarried, mothers or not. It is an opportunity to honor motherhood, beauty, and the wisdom of women. As Russian proverb says, ‘the man is the head of the family, the woman is the neck.’ This proverb reflects the role of a woman in the family in Russia, her inwardness and ability to empower her husband.

Men give presents and flowers to significant women. School children present gifts and buckets of flowers to their teachers, and do crafts at schools and in nurseries to present to mums and grandmothers. Even little girls receive gifts from their relatives. At work places men organize celebrations on the last day before the holiday, with gifts, flowers and festive tables. Employers may also present something to the female employees.

Several days before the holiday the 'shopping fever' begins. One can come across a flower shortage and suitable presents fly away from the shop shelves. So, wise men buy them in advance, also not to overpay for the last-minute gifts. Men are always puzzled what to buy. Traditional presents are perfume and cosmetics, along with flowers (tulips, mimosas and roses). The yellow branches of mimosa are the symbol of the holiday. Mimosa and other flowers are traditional printed on postcards; they signify spring, which is a great deal in Russia, with its long harsh winters.

This is a true family holiday, people stay home, arrange festive celebrations, or may visit friends and relatives. Men and children can take over in the kitchen to prepare a festive meal. One can see happy women’s faces everywhere. The 8th of March is a special day for all women, a day full of congratulations, compliments and gifts.

We would like to take this opportunity to say congratulations to all women who celebrate this day!

If you think about travelling to Russia, why not get in touch with our travel experts about arranging a trip.

Real Russia Blog

Defender of the Fatherland Day
23
February
2017

Defender of the Fatherland Day

A day of real men

On February 24th, Russia celebrates Defender of the Fatherland Day. On this special occasion, most offices, banks and official buildings, including consulates and visa centers, are closed.

Defender of the Fatherland day is observed in Russia and several other former Soviet republics to commemorate the veterans and members of the Armed Forces, mostly men, but also women, who currently serve, or who have previously served, in the military. People treat it not just as a military celebration, but as a universal men’s holiday; an opportunity to congratulate all men of the country.

The history of the holiday

This day traces its history to 1922, when the fourth anniversary of Red Army was celebrated. However, some historians argue that this special day is in fact celebrated to laud the Red Army’s first important victory over German invaders in 1918.

Between 1936 and 1990, the holiday was observed as the Soviet Army and Navy Day. In 1991 the holiday was removed from the calendar, before being renamed and reinstated in 2002.

How do people celebrate this day?

Though this day honors the military as a whole, many Russians regard Defender of the Fatherland day as a 'men’s day' because military service is obligatory for most men in Russia. Colloquially, it's a day of real men, broadly speaking, defenders, a day to honor them for their force, courage and spirit.

Women often give presents and postcards to their male relatives and friends, including those who never served in the military. On a workday before the holiday, many women also congratulate their male colleagues, and schoolboys may receive greeting cards and small presents from their female classmates. At schools and nurseries girls do simple crafts and banners to present to their fathers and other male relatives.

It is followed on the 8th March by International Women's Day, on which day the men of Russia honour the fairer sex.

Public celebrations

Russian authorities may organize local parades and fireworks to honor the military and veterans on this day. The Russian President, military leaders, and representatives of Parliament and the Government, traditionally attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Alexander Garden near the Kremlin walls.

Alexander Garden and the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, Russia

We wholeheartedly congratulate all our male colleagues, and everyone who will be celebrating this day!

If you would like to take in the incredible atmosphere of one of Russia’s many public celebrations, why not speak to our travel specialists in Russia about any of the services we offer?