Unity Holiday Creating Discord
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 replaced.
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.