February 23 – Defender of the Fatherland Day

Today is February 23. Some will call it Red Army Day or just simply Army Day. Still others will say Defender of the Motherland Day or Defender of the Fatherland Day.

Today however many Russians speak of Defender Day. Not only Russians, but most of the former republics celebrate it too. Which of the above names is correct?

Over the years the name has changed. Many historians say that the day began when the government declared February 23 in 1918 as the day to honour the Red Army victory over the Kaiser’s German troops near Narva and Pskov. The day was declared to be День Красной Армии (Red Army Day).

Today it is often known simply as the Day of Defender. You see, back in 1918 the Red Army didn’t win that battle. The Germans kicked their Russian butts but Lenin, Stalin and others at that early stage in Soviet leadership didn’t want the Russian people to know of the defeat so they concocted a fake victory celebration.

The Red Army did stop the German Army at that location, eventually, two years later in 1920.

Whoever or whatever acted with fraud, the Supreme Soviet took up the issue many years later. But in 1949 the Soviet government was in no position to admit that Stalin was wrong, but they did change the name to День Советской Армий и Военно-Морского Флота (Soviet Army and Navy Day).

After the fall of the Soviet regime the name was changed to День защитника Отечества (Defender of the Fatherland Day) meant to celebrate men and women who served and/or now serving the Russian Armed Forces.

And of course these days there are women in active service, thereby the likeness of the Army “Smokinhotkova” who wants her recognition as well.

You’ll also find Russians who speak of it as День Мужчин (Men’s Day), sort of like a companion to Women’s Day on 08 March. Flowers are given to men sometimes or chocolates, cakes, kisses, etc.

Learning point in language:
In context it could be homeland, but for our native Russian speakers here is a interesting question for readers studying Russian language: Отечество or Отечествa? Some may say that Отечествa is a masculine noun with a feminine ending (like the word Papa, for example.) So let’s ask our native speakers which is most correct. Should we say fatherland or motherland?

Whatever you decide to call it, we wish you a happy day!   tiphat