Russia’s June 12 holiday: birth of a nation

Map of Russia

(Moscow News – themoscownews.com – Natalia Antonova – June 10, 2013) Ask a handful of people about Russia Day, celebrated every year on June 12 since 1992, and you are likely to encounter confusion. Meant to celebrate the birth of the Russian Federation, a modern nation with a new Constitution and flag, the holiday does not have a lot of cultural or political resonance as of yet.

Obviously, the hardships of the 1990s did little to inspire fondness for Russia Day. Amid widespread poverty, desperation, and disillusionment, people were, at best, ambivalent toward the June 12 holiday.

Yet national holidays are also all about potent symbols. And the truth is, in the modern era, Russia is continuing to search for its identity. This ongoing search is what makes Russia Day confusing in particular. Sure, celebrating the birth of a new nation makes sense ­ but what is the celebration supposed to look like?

Some of the more positive symbols of the post-Soviet era include everything from restored Orthodox churches to Sochi 2014 Winter Games mascots, while the more negative ones encompass everything from horrendous Moscow traffic jams to the tastelessness exhibited by the nouveau riche. Yet there is not one symbol specifically associated with Russia Day. Perhaps the only aspect of national identity Russia Day can truly lay claim to is the Russian f lag ­ which many members of older generations are still getting used to.

For now, Russia Day is akin to a blank canvas in the national consciousness. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it implies opportunity. But what it also means is that June 12 is one of those post-Soviet holidays that still hold little actual meaning for the average citizen. The most the citizens can currently agree on is that it’s certainly nice to get a day off.