Thursday, June 17, 2010

Russia Day

On Saturday, after Victory Day on the 9th of May and St. Petersburg City Day the first weekend of our arrival, we had the honor of witnessing another celebratory day. Really, I am under the impression that the Russians just need occasions to celebrate in the summer, and are very talented in finding them. But anyway. While on St. Petersburg Day the streets were packed with people, waiting even in the rain for parades to walk by and operas involving red giraffes (don't ask) to be performed, and my friend Leona arrived on Victory Day to see military parades strutting about (what greater way to arrive in Russia...), Russia Day only had a couple of half-hearted salespeople with Russia flags (including some featuring Putin and Medvedev though, funnily enough) and little to no celebratory spirit in the streets. Oh, people attended the concert at night, of course, but whether that was just for the concert or to celebrate the birthday of the new Russia is another question.
Why this lethargy? Have people just been overwhelmed in holidays to appreciate the greatest one any more? Or is there another underlying reason? When asking around, we were told that our friends definitely didn't celebrate Russia Day, also called Russian Independence Day. A glance back in history might explain why. "What are we celebrating?", one of them said. "The demise of the Soviet Union? Another failure in our history? And independence - from whom? The Ukraine?" Though obviously with a hint of sarcasm, maybe this one comment was enlightening to explain what happened. Russia Day was introduced to celebrate the new, smaller, but revived Russia. But whereas Victory Day made people excited, because they had something to be proud of and could remember their former glory, Russia Day might make them remember the harder parts of recent history, and awaken nostalgia instead of pride. It is interesting, how the next years will see Russia Day, for that might also show the general feeling in Russia better than any polling.

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