It's a Holiday Time of the Year ... Or Is
And a happy holiday to you. Go to the dacha,
sleep in, get drunk, be happy. What holiday is it? It's a Friday
-- that's all most Russians can tell you.
In the last 15 years, Russia has acquired some
new holidays, such as Constitution Day, on Dec. 12, and another
day, June 12, which is sometimes known as Independence Day, which
begs the question: Independence from what? Hard to say. But now
November offers a possible answer. It must be independence from
Poland that we never tire of celebrating.
Once upon a time, we celebrated the anniversary
of Great October, the 1917 Bolshevik coup that established the
state later known as the Soviet Union. Great October was celebrated
in November, but this stemmed from the gap between the Julian
and the Gregorian calendars.
In 1991, communist rule and the Soviet Union
collapsed, but Russia kept celebrating Great October for a number
of years. The Communist Party, naturally, used the day to rally
its troops. Finally, Boris Yeltsin renamed the holiday, calling
it the Day of Accord and Reconciliation. The idea was that it
would stop being a day of confrontation and would come to symbolize
Russia's coming to terms with its bloody and shameful past.
This was one of the very, very few things that
the Yeltsin government ever did to help Russia come to terms with
its past. Unsurprisingly, it was not successful. Communists and
other left-wingers continued to rally, and the rest of us continued
to try to ignore them.
Last year, President Vladimir Putin's administration
took up the problem of the November holiday. Literal-minded as
these people can sometimes be, that is precisely how they seemed
to conceptualize the issue: There was a November holiday that
was wrong, and they needed a November holiday that was right.
So they looked for something that happened in November. Unfortunately,
the year comprises 12 months, and the great milestones of Russian
history are more or less evenly spread throughout the year, so
the pickings for November were slim.
They found Nov. 4, the day the Poles were kicked
out of the Kremlin. Or not. The events of the period resisted
simple demarcation, and continue to do so today. Let's put it
this way: How many people know what they are celebrating, or what
really happened on Nov. 4, 1612?