День защитника отечества / Defender of the Fatherland Day

Russian language practice from the contemporary Russian media / wreath on Defender of the Fatherland Day

Audio content: People expressing thoughts both patriotic and provocative on the occasion of Defending the Fatherland Day
Visual content: Images of Russian military pomp, political leaders from multiple parties and political regalia

In a week or two I’ll do a post featuring the remarkable marches in honor of Boris Nemtsov that happened last weekend. I’ve found lots of great video on that topic but need a chance to sort through it. Meanwhile, today’s post offers a multifaceted look at the Russian national holiday that was celebrated a week ago. On February 23rd every year Russians observe День защитника отечества / Defender of the Fatherland Day, which is the post-Soviet heir to holidays celebrating the Red Army. The holiday honors all who have served in Russia’s armed forces, but the day is also popularly viewed as a celebration of men in general, as it comes just a couple weeks before Международный женский день / International Women’s Day, marked on March 8th.

On this year’s Defender of the Fatherland Day, a number of interesting intersecting political currents were on display. Not all of them are apparent in this post’s videos, but they provide an interesting backdrop to what you’ll see here. The official state-supported celebration included parades, fireworks, the placing of a wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier, public exhibits of military technology and family events meant to encourage national pride and promote interest in military service. But several notable non-officially-sanctioned events occurred on this day as well. Ilya Yashin, one of the leaders of the opposition party РПР-Парнас (which currently has no representation in the Duma), chose this day to present a report on Ramzan Kadyrov. Kadyrov is the leader of the Chechen republic, an ally of Putin and an outspoken, aggressive enemy of opposition political movements. With the report, titled “Угроза национальной безопасности” / “A Threat to National Security,” Yashin accuses Kadyrov of cultivating a cult of personality, fostering rampant corruption and developing a local security force that operates without federal oversight. Yashin’s presentation at party headquarters was interrupted by bomb threats and the building was vandalized with bright paint.

Kadyrov, meanwhile, also made some notable statements on February 23rd.

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День победы / Victory Day

Russian language practice from the contemporary Russian media. Aerial view of the parade in central Moscow.

Visual content: Great images of the celebration of День победы.
Audio content: Numerous interviews with participants in the popular march, discussing their ancestors’ contributions to the war effort.

Video from Первый канал
9 мая 2015

This year’s celebration, on May 9th, of Russia’s  victory in the Великая Отечественная Война / Great Fatherland War (World War II) took place on a particularly grand scale with lots of patriotic emotion and extensive popular participation. Besides the usual parade on Red Square, cities around the country organized marches under the name “Бессмертный полк” / “The Immortal Regiment.” This event was first conceived by an independent television channel in Tomsk in 2012 and was then embraced and promoted at the federal level. The essence of the event is that people march while holding photographs of family members who served and perhaps perished in the war.


This clip is from Первый канал / Channel One. The first three minutes show shots of the day’s events mixed with archival footage, with the song “От героев былых времён” playing in the background. Note that many participants in the event, as well as the news anchor, are wearing black-and-gold striped ribbons. This is the Георгиевская лента / St. George’s Ribbon, originally a component of some military decorations and now widely distributed as a symbolic commemoration of the country’s sacrifices in World War II.

The rest of the video includes numerous interviews with participants in the Moscow march.

4:10 Boy in uniform:
“Мой дедушка снова в строю, от моего имени. Я этим очень горжусь. Я хочу, чтобы вы все, кто сейчас меня видит, слышит и понимает, помнили тех, кто подарил нам мирную жизнь.”
“My grandfather is once again in the ranks, on my behalf. I am very proud of that. I want everyone who sees, hears and understands me now to remember those who gave us the gift of a peaceful life.”
Girl in uniform: “Мой прапрадедушка, его очень сильно люблю, горжусь им, он работает пока, он умер в войне.”
“My great-great grandfather, I love him very much, I am proud of him, he works for now [?]… he died in the war.

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