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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.

Source: The Moscow Times

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