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Defender of the Fatherland Day in Russia

Defender of the Fatherland Day is a Russian holiday on February 23 and focuses on the achievements of military forces and veterans.

Is Defender of the Fatherland Day a Public Holiday?

Defender of the Fatherland Day is a public holiday. It is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.

Monument of Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov at Manege Square, Moscow, Russia.
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

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2010TueFeb 23Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
2011WedFeb 23Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
2012ThuFeb 23Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
2013SatFeb 23Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
2014SunFeb 23Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
2015MonFeb 23Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
2016TueFeb 23Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
2017ThuFeb 23Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
2018FriFeb 23Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
2019SatFeb 23Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
2019MonFeb 25Defender of the Fatherland Day observedNational holiday
2020SunFeb 23Defender of the Fatherland DayNational holiday
2020MonFeb 24Defender of the Fatherland Day observedNational holiday

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