What does Russia celebrate on November, 4th?
On November the 4th Russians will celebrate a National Unity holiday. One hidden truth about it is that at least half of people (this number is provided by Public Opinion Foundation) don’t know what we should celebrate, and what was the reason for this public holiday, they just enjoy a day off.
If you like street concerts, dances and free cookies, if waving colorful flags makes you as excited as Sheldon Cooper, you can’t miss this Russian holiday in 2020.
Let’s explore together what November 4th, or the National Unity Day, is exactly about and what it is not.
First, those of you who studied Russian history might have a hint that this holiday is connected to the establishment of the Soviet Union. That would be a good try! According to the Grigorian calendar, the 1917 Revolution happened on November, 7th, and until recently, to be precise until the year 2005, November 7th was a day off. From 1917 to 1996 the day was intended for commemorating the Great October Socialist Revolution. In 1996, after the Soviet Union collapsed and some inner harmony was found in society, November 7th received a new politically correct name- Day of Accord and Reconciliation. Finally, in 2005, the Day of Accord and Reconciliation was canceled. Simultaneously, the old folk and religious holiday of the icon of Our Lady Kazan, celebrated on November 4th, became a new state holiday called Unity Day.
People breathed out because, frankly speaking, everyone had already got used to having short family vacations in November.
Of course, the holiday has a historical event behind it. On November, 4th of the year 1612 there was a popular act of resistance of Russian society against Polish-Lithuanian occupation forces. All classes, rich and poor, stood together to protect Moscow from occupation. A meat trader from the city of Nizny Novgorod Kuzma Minin and a prince Dmitry Pozharsky who commanded a patriotic movement became national heroes on that day.
You can find the Monument to Minin and Pozarsky in Moscow center, it’s on the Red Square in front of tourists’ favorite attraction- St Basil’s Cathedral. Russians were indeed proud of the victory and a spirit of togetherness they felt after the battle. An idea to build a monument was first raised in 1803 in the Russian Academy of Arts. Interestingly, when Alexander I approved the plan, the government didn’t give money for the statue. They announced a crowdfunding campaign, and citizens of Nizhny Novgorod sponsored the construction, hoping that the monument will adorn the city where Minin lived. As it happens in monarchies, the Tsar ordered differently, and we have the monument at the heart of Moscow. If you wish to learn more about this period of Russian history, ask our guides during Moscow Off the Beaten Path tour!
If you read up to this moment, our congratulations! You know about Unity Day in Russia more than average busy Russian person.
But let’s return to modern Moscow, where a grandiose November festival will be taking place for 3 days.
Cold and changing from sun to rains, these short November holidays will be entertaining for the whole family. If you have kids, take them to ride on a merry-go-round at shiny Revolution Square. When you are tired or frozen, make a stop at one of Moscow cafes- borscht and a pot of Russian tea will warm you up. While making a promenade in Sadovoye Ring, in Tagansky, Gorky and other numerous parks, you can watch over 300 professional handicraftsmen sawing, knitting, tailoring traditional clothes, doll- making, rasping woods and cooking the broth in huge black cauldrons. Magical things they do!
Among the brightest Moscow events are street theatre and folk performances with ethnic dances. For those who are curious about Orthodox traditions, religious processions and services might draw your attention.
ExploRussia team will be spending National Unity day in the capital with dear tourists. You are always welcome to join our party! If you are planning a trip to Moscow, here is a profound guide on what to do in the city for 3 days, enjoy!
by Natalia Motorina, a local travel writer