День России! (Day of Russia)
Congratulations to each of our Russian readers on День России! Today is a holiday in Russia. Sort of like the American July 4th, but with a lot less “hoopla.”
June 12th was originally named “Russian Independence Day,” marking both the day when Russia declared its independence from the Soviet Union and the day when, exactly one year later, Boris Yeltsin was elected the first president of the Russian Federation. In 2002 the name was changed to “Day of Russia” when it became clear that most Russians did not understand from whom they had declared independence. Russia, as they see it, is simply a third incarnation of a state that has always been and the Russian people have always been autonomous since the Mongols were defeated in the 16th century. The idea that a country that had fought off both Hitler and Napoleon had been bound to the service of a foreign force was considered, understandably, a little offensive.
President Medvedev used the day to present the Russian National Awards for outstanding achievements in science and technology, literature and the arts, and humanitarian work. The National Award for achievements in the humanitarian field was awarded to Valentina Tereshkova. The ceremony took place at the Grand Kremlin Palace.
The National Awards for literature and the arts were presented to the Pavlovsk Palace and Park curator Marina Flit, the creators of Smeshariki (GoGoRiki) animated television series Anatoly Prokhorov, Salavat Shaikhinurov and Ilya Popov, director of the Sverdlovsk State Philharmonic Alexander Kolotursky, and chief conductor of the Urals Academic Philharmonic Orchestra Dmitry Liss.
Later in the day Mr. Medvedev hosted a reception on the Kremlin’s Ivanovskaya Square to celebrate the Day of Russia and honour last year’s 2008 National Award winners.
In general most Russians still don’t consider the holiday a true holiday (as opposed to just a day off). In a recent poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation, only 20% of respondents said that it held greater meaning. Again, this is reflective of the general opinion that the day does not mark a celebratory event; it in fact can be seen as the day that began a decade of social chaos and economic hardship. Another reason for this apathy is that most Russians played little role in the process of change. While the government may try to conjure up the idea that the Russian people were responsible for the day, the truth is that in the view of most Russians they remember standing in the streets and passively watching in bewilderment as their government crumbled.
But for those celebrating, Happy Russia Day!