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What and Why is Defenders Day?
February 18, 2008 20:54


February 23 is celebrated all over Russia as the Homeland Defender’s Day. Now a public holiday, it was first established in 1922 as the Red Army Day and from 1949 to 1993 it was named Day of the Soviet Army and the Navy. Nowadays, however, it has gained a more general sense of the “Man’s Day”, as a just match for the Women’s Day following it on the calendar. Daddies, granddaddies, brothers, boyfriends, husbands and sons (i.e. all possible defenders) and, certainly, those who have served or are serving the army, get their share of greetings and presents on this remarkable day.

So why is February 23 and no other date considered Man’s Day?

Right after the victory of the Bolsheviks’ armed revolt in Petrograd (then the name of Petersburg) on 7-8 November 1917 in the framework of October Revolution, the Soviet rule had to fight not only with internal enemies that were against the communist radiant tomorrow, but also had to face World War Igoing on the Russian territory.

In order to protect the newly born Soviet State from Germany the Soviet government had to organize regular forces. On January 28, 1918 Chairman of Council of People’s Comissars Vladimir (Ulyanov) Lenin signed the decree “On Establishment of Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army” and on February 11 the decree “On Establishment of Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Navy”. So, working people who voluntarily expressed their willingness to join the armed defenders of Motherland were enrolled to the Red Army and the Red Navy.

On February 18, 1918 the joint Austrian-German and Turkish forces perfidiously broke the armistice (concluded on December 15, 1917) by encroaching upon the Soviet Russia and starting to occupy Ukraine, Byelorussia and the Baltic countries.

On February 21 the German troops seized Minsk (Byelorussia). On that day the Soviet Council turned to the people with the appeal: “Social State is in danger!”

Following this, February 23 saw the Red Army Day held in Petrograd under the motto of “protecting the Social Motherland from the Kaiser’s forces”. In response to it only in Petrograd (present Petersburg) tens of thousands of volunteers rose against the invaders. The newly formed Red Army troops at once joined the battle against the German forces.

It should be mentioned, however, that many historians question the fact of any remarkable victory in those days of 1918. The papers of that period boasted no definite victory reports. Neither spoke they about the victory anniversary a year later, in 1919. Such references came to appear not until the early 1920s.

From 1922 February 23 gained the status of a big national holiday as the Red Army Birthday. February 22, 1922 saw a parade of the Moscow Garrison on Red Square, as well as a grand sitting of Mossovet (Moscow City Council) together with representatives of military units of the Moscow Garrison.

From 1923, following the order of the Revolutionary War Council the day came to be annually celebrated as the Red Army Day.

In 1946 the holiday was renamed into Day of the Soviet Army and the Navy.

In 2002 the State Duma of Russian Federation made February 23 an official day-off, whereas in Ukraine and Byelorussia it still remains a working day.

Recently suggestions have been occurring about shifting the Defender’s Day onto another date that would really remind of unquestionable victories and glorious (non-Soviet) past of the Russian Army.


Tags: Russian Holidays     

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