During Soviet times the October (Bolshevik) Revolution was celebrated on November 7 (the revolution's date under the Gregorian Calendar. With the fall of the Soviet Union that holiday was replaced by Unity Day celebrated on November 4. It marked the day that an all-Russian volunteer army under Prince Dmitry Pozharsky and the salt merchant Kuzma Minin expelled the Poles from the Moscow Kremlin. In 1818 following the victory over another invader – Napoleon, a monument to the two was erected at the Kremlin. In the pre-pandemic years, the Russian leadership flanked by the heads of the various recognized religions in Russia laid flowers at the monument.
Despite the government's efforts to enshrine Unity Day as a day of patriotism and unity between the nations and religions constituting Russia, many in Russia from Communists, who still pine for November 7, and liberals who see it as a sham ersatz holiday, do not revere it.
Below, are two different appraisals of Unity Day. The first is by Mikhail Myagkov, head of The Russian Military Historical Society (RVIO), explaining why Unity Day is both historically justified and important educationally for contemporary Russia. The second is by political consultant Abbas Gallyamov, who was previously a speech writer for Putin, who has become a bitter critic of Putinism. Gallyamov believes that in the present circumstances, where only harsh repression holds Russia together, celebrating Unity Day is farcical.
On Unity Day of 2020, Putin and the Orthodox Patriarch followed by the leaders of Russia's recognized religions lay flowers at the monument to Minin and Pozharsky (Source: Flashnord.com)
Mikhail Myagkov asserts in an article titled "Service to the Nations" that Russia has served as a successful model for a multinational state. Russia always treated the peoples, who came under its sway with respect together with their culture and religions. They, in return, repaid Russia with their loyalty in all of Russia's wars. He wrote:
"National Unity Day, which we [Russia] mark on November 4 commemorates the liberation of Moscow from the Poles and end of the Time of Troubles ["Smuta"] of the early 17th century. It is symbolic. After all, back then almost all the peoples of Russia stood shoulder to shoulder for the salvation of the state. It was a genuine union of forces by a vast multinational country that became an example for all future generations.
"From the beginning, Russia was established as a multinational power. Today, according to the 2010 census, it is home to more than 190 peoples.
"Our country, unlike many Western colonial empires, in the course of its development regarded with empathy the originality, mentality, religion and spiritual roots of its constituent peoples. Russian culture appropriated all the best features that various nationalities residing in Russia have.
"Taking other peoples under its wing, Russia didn't humiliate them, didn't put itself above its neighbors, but instead provided them with the opportunity to raise themselves to Russia's own level. As the eminent historian Vasily Klyuchevsky noted, "The old genealogy books create an impression of a Russian Museum of Ethnography catalogue. The entire Russian Plain [meaning the East European Plain] with its outskirts was represented by this feudal nobility] demonstrating the fullness and diversity of its multi-tribal composition with all its Russian, German, Greek, Lithuanian and even Tatar and Finnish elements."
"Great Britain, France, and the other great powers built their financial and economic well-being on the pain and suffering of alien nations, while Russia granted more and more to the newly annexed peoples by making them a part of its imperial civilization project, and provided security. This is the main difference between the Russian Empire and the empires created by the Western countries. [Guess he's not talking about the beginning of 17th century anymore, since there was no Great Britain back then, just England.]
"The eminent Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin wrote regarding this issue, "...Make some effort and take a look at the historical map of Europe during the age of Charlemagne and the first Carolingian [kings]. You will see that starting almost from Denmark following the Elbe and beyond the Elbe ... there were Slavic tribes… Where did they go? They were conquered, eradicated, or completely deprived of their nationality by the Germans... was anything similar seen or heard of in Russia's history? Never! As many the number of small tribes [meaning peoples] that Russia annexed throughout history, that many it preserved... Russia has never conducted mandatory baptism, or extermination, or homogenizing Russification."
"Today, it is important to remind all those, who wish to divide Russia into national "flats" that, in the event of external danger, our peoples have always stood together.
"Bashkir, Tatar and Kalmyk cavalry gallantly fought in all of Russia's 18th-20th centuries wars. The famous Caucasian Native Cavalry Division (also called the "Savage Division"), consisting of Kabardians, Dagestanis [not a nation though], Chechens, Azerbaijanis, Circassians, Ingush, and other Muslim peoples of Russia fought on the Southwestern Front [of WWI] and actively participated in the Brusilov Offensive of 1916.
"During the Great Patriotic War, all the USSR nationalities fought the enemy. They all defended their common Motherland. The Nazis believed that the multinational state wouldn't survive and would collapse into feuding factions. However, this did not happen. In May of 1942 among the 5.5 million soldiers of the Red Army, who fought at the front, about 1.2 million servicemen were of non-Russian ethnicity.
"Representatives of the majority of the USSR nations and ethnicities were among the [those awarded] the Hero of the Soviet Union title. They included: 8160 Russians, 2069 Ukrainians, 309 Belarusians, 161 Tatars, 108 Jews, 96 Kazakhs, 90 Georgians, 90 Armenians, 69 Uzbeks, 61 Mordvins, 56 Dagestanis, 44 representatives of Chuvash people, 43 Azerbaijanis, 39 Bashkirs, 32 Ossetians, 18 representatives of Mari people, 18 Turkmens, 18 Lithuanians, 14 Tajiks, 13 Latvians, 12 Kirghiz, 10 Udmurts, 9 Karels, 8 Estonians, 8 Kalmyks, 7 Kabardians, 6 Adygeans, 5 Abkhazians, 3 Yakuts, 2 Moldavians.
"The representatives of those peoples, who were illegally repressed and deported [by Stalin after the war] also fought bravely, for example: the Chechens, Ingush, Crimean Tatars, etc. Amet Khan Sultan, a prominent Soviet ace of Crimean Tatar origin, twice became the Hero of the Soviet Union. The Russian Military Historical Society built a monument in his honor in Simferopol in October of 2020.
"The USSR's collapse made the former Soviet republics independent. New countries appeared on the world map. Meanwhile, since the fall of the Russian Empire, the country has lost more than 5 million square kilometers of its territory. Nevertheless, Russia managed to avoid the large-scale ethnic conflicts that erupted after 1991 in many former Soviet republics.
"At one time, scholars of Eurasia noted that Russia is a special world. The nations and people living within borders of this world can and do achieve complete mutual understanding. The countries of Europe, America and Asia are unable to achieve forms of peaceful cohabitation, teamwork and defense of a united country [as developed in Russia].
"Russia has established itself as a true 'family of nations,' which unites nations of different religion and origin but close in terms of their historical destiny and culture (starting with everyday life to political traditions).
"Today, Russia more than ever needs national unity, it needs for all citizens to feel a sense of ownership in reaching the goals that lie ahead of our country, irrespective of their social status.
"An interethnic peace created through the efforts of many generations, respect for traditions, cross-fertilization of different peoples' cultures, and acknowledgment of the continuity of common history have become the cornerstones of Russia's independence. The school education and upbringing of the country's citizens must be powered by a rich culture and faithfulness to the memory of the ancestors.
"Despite the ongoing process of globalization, we have no right to lose the unique national character of dozens of large and small peoples of Russia, bestowed upon us by history."
Professor Mikhail Myagkov (Source: Ria.ru)
For Abbas Gallyamov in a post titled "What National Unity Awaits Us?" talk of unity in Putin's Russia was a travesty, as Russia was far from unified. He wrote:
"Today the authorities will talk verbosely and grandiosely about "unity." Would you like me to tell you what kind of unity awaits us in the coming years?
"A mighty conflict between the state and the society awaits us, because the bias in favor of the former to the detriment of the latter is so great that it cannot be corrected without a serious political 'shake-up.' Additionally, the country faces a clash between the [federal] center and the periphery; here as well the imbalance has reached unbelievable proportions.
"What's more, there will be wars between the ever-more affluent rich and the ever- impoverished-poor; between government and business; between law enforcement and civilians; between executive power and legislators; between conservatives and liberals...
"It should be kept in mind that all these conflicts will be multifaceted and multidimensional. They won’t be so simple at all, as one might think at first glance. For instance, the confrontation between the [federal] center and the periphery will in some cases have a prominent ethno-national character. What's more, not only Moscow and regional capitals will participate in this confrontation, but conflicts will also occur between regional capitals and local self-government bodies. In addition, in many cases (but not throughout the country) there will be conflicts between cities and villages, areas with ecological problems and centers of high income, etc.
"One has to understand that virtually all the contradictions and fractures inherited by the today's regime as the legacy of previous eras have deepened, multiplied, and are being contained now only through the total suppression of any social activity.
"However, the [state's] repressive apparatus doesn't solve the problems, it simply sweeps them under the rug. By doing so, it eliminates not only the possibility of curing them, but also the chance of a correct diagnosis.
"In this regard the situation continues to deteriorate. By banning any conventional forms of demonstrating one's political stance, the regime facilitated a trend when people demonstrate their butts on social networks as a sign of protest. The regime is trying to suppress this form of protest too. Several court sentences have been handed down in this regard. One God knows how the situation will develop further and when it will blow up.
"This is the kind of 'unity' that awaits us and our children.
Abbas Gallyamov (Source: M.business-gazeta.ru)