Staunton, November 4 – Today, Russians mark a holiday that lays stress on “religiosity over secularism, national uniqueness over universal values, and stability over development,” values few besides its creator, Vladimir Putin, would have seen as its core when he established this holiday eleven years ago, according to Vladislav Inozemtsev.
At that time, the Moscow economist and commentator says, many saw it simply as a substitute for the Soviet holiday of November 7th and assumed that the powers that be simply did not want to risk the anger of a population used to having several days off in early November.
Over the last decade, most commentaries on the November 4 Day of National Unity have focused on the actions of Russian nationalists with their Russian marches, Inozemtsev says, adding that in his opinion, “the danger of nationalism in the country is strongly exaggerated,” as compared to the revival of imperialist thinking.
Instead, he suggests, three aspects of today’s holiday are more instructive about the direction Putin wants Russia to be going.
First of all, Inozemtsev writes, “the choice of the date [for today’s holiday] was ‘linked’ not so much to a specific moment” when the Poles were driven from the Kremlin “as from the day in which is celebrated the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, one of the Christian holidays unique for Russia.”
“Not in a single [other] country which in one way or other can be considered modern has religious holidays become government ones. But in Russia that is essentially what has happened given that nothing special actually took place on November 4, 1612,” the Moscow commentator says.
Second, this holiday reflects “two other aspects of the new Russia: glorification of military successes and an attitude toward the West (and to Europe) as a hostile force.” In most countries, neither military victories nor particular battles have become government holidays, he points out.
This holiday thus points to the significance of “Russian ‘popular resistance’…and to the enduring importance of driving out ‘Western devils’ from Russia.” It is “characteristic,” Inozemtsev says, that there are no Russian holidays devoted to victory over the Mongol Yoke and have never been.
And third, “one way or another in public consciousness, the November 4 holiday is associated with the return of Moscow and the Kremlin to being under the power of ‘patriotic’ – I would even not be afraid to say conservative – forces,” Inozemtsev says, especially since the war against the Poles did not end in 1612 but lasted six more years.
Thus, “at the beginning of the 21st century, the authorities have promised Russians that [the regime] is only at the beginning of the path of acquiring the desired ‘stability,’ that the struggle ‘for Russia’ (with the West, with the oligarchs, with domestic traitors, and with everything else you want to mention) is only beginning.”
And the authorities are saying as well that their goal is “to complete this struggle with a complete victory.” All these things made this holiday “tailor-made” for Putin, Inozemtsev argues, even if that was not clear to many 11 years ago. But the implicit messages of the holiday also are disturbing, he adds.
“In the majority of democratic countries…the peoples mark the overthrow of the monarchy or liberation from under its powers, [but] in Russia they celebrate its restoration.” That does not leave much as the basis for “particular optimism” about where Russia’s current leader is planning to take the country.
Inozemtsev says that he hopes that at some point in the future, Russians will mark as their day of real national unity March 8, the anniversary of the collapse of the monarchy and the ultimate abdication of the tsar. They are certainly ready for that: Russians already celebrate that day as Women’s Day, when men give presents to women.