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Defender of the Fatherland Day in Russia

Quick Facts

Many Russians celebrate Defender of the Fatherland Day on February 23, when they honor military forces and veterans.

Local names

NameLanguage
День защитника ОтечестваRussian
Defender of the Fatherland DayEnglish
Tag des VaterlandsverteidigersGerman

Defender of the Fatherland Day 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Defender of the Fatherland Day 2015

Monday, February 23, 2015
List of dates for other years

Defender of the Fatherland Day is a popular Russian holiday on February 23, although the date itself has no major historical significance in Russia. The day focuses on the achievements of military forces and veterans.

Russian men who have never served in the military are also congratulated and receive presents on this day.

Defender of the Fatherland Day remembers both current and past achievements of many Russians including Red Army leader Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov (statue pictured above).

©iStockphoto.com/dmitriyd

What do people do?

Many Russians observe February 23 as men’s day because military service is obligatory for most men in Russia. Women often give presents and postcards to their male relatives, including those who never served in the military. On a workday before or after the holiday, many women also congratulate their male colleagues and schoolboys may receive small presents from their female classmates.

Russian authorities may organize local parades to honor the military and veterans on this day. It is becoming more common for women who serve in the military to be honored on this day, and this challenges the traditionally masculine aspect of the holiday.

Public life

Defender of the Fatherland Day, which is on February 23, is a public holiday throughout the Russian Federation. Most schools, banks and official buildings are closed on this day. Public transport services may vary in cities that hold a parade.

Background

The reasons behind celebrating Defender of the Fatherland Day on February 23 are unclear, as the date does not coincide with any historical event. Russia first celebrated this day in 1922 as the fourth anniversary of the Red Army. However, Russian leader Vladimir Lenin signed a decree for the creation of a Bolshevik Army on a different date (January 15, 1918). In 1938, Soviet history books started claiming that the Red Army won an important victory over German invaders on February 23, 1918, but no independent sources supported this claim. The Russian Parliament voted to remove it from the holiday’s history in 2006.

Between 1936 and 1990, February 23 was observed as the Soviet Army and Navy Day. It became a workday in 1991. The Russian parliament reintroduced it as a public holiday in 2002, after renaming it as Defender of the Fatherland Day.

Symbols

Common symbols of Defender of the Fatherland Day are a soldier and the Russian flag. These symbols often appear on postcards and congratulatory banners in Russian cities on this day.

Defender of the Fatherland Day Observances

WeekdayDateYearNameHoliday type
SatFeb 232002Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
MonFeb 252002Defender of the Fatherland Day observedNational holiday
SunFeb 232003Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
MonFeb 242003Defender of the Fatherland Day observedNational holiday
MonFeb 232004Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
WedFeb 232005Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
ThuFeb 232006Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
FriFeb 232007Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
SatFeb 232008Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
MonFeb 252008Defender of the Fatherland Day observedNational holiday
MonFeb 232009Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
TueFeb 232010Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
WedFeb 232011Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
ThuFeb 232012Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
SatFeb 232013Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
SunFeb 232014Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
MonFeb 232015Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
TueFeb 232016Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
ThuFeb 232017Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
FriFeb 232018Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
SatFeb 232019Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
MonFeb 252019Defender of the Fatherland Day observedNational holiday
SunFeb 232020Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
MonFeb 242020Defender of the Fatherland Day observedNational holiday

Other holidays in February 2014 in Russia

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