Today is the fourth annual Day of National Unity, which marks the 397th anniversary of the great Prince Pozharsky expelling the Polish-Lithuanian invaders in 1612, an event that marked the end of the Time of Troubles.
Anecdotally, however, most Russians don’t know why the hell they have the day off of work, and the polls bear out the findings of my imperfect field work. Only 31% of Russians could name the holiday celebrated on November 4, and an amazing 2% knew that it has anything to do with the Poles and/or Lithuanians. (This does not, however, prevent the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi from drawing thousands — thousands — of young people to their Unity Day events to feel good and Russian, and to give ironically creepy straight-arm salutes. See picture.)
Unity Day, however, is not the only new holiday (it was announced in 2005) that puzzles the average Russian. There’s also Russia Day, celebrated on June 12, which marks the Russian Federation declaring independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. (Recognition of this holiday usually tops out in the mid-30% range.)
And, of course, there is the ever-strange, always unexplained ten days Russians have off right after January 1. No one knows why the Kremlin decided to give them these days, or where they get them, but Russians with means put them to good use, booking long vacations somewhere warm. In the meantime, GDP plummets and everyone else stays home and gets drunk, gets into car accidents, or commits suicide. Rates for these three skyrocket in early January, but, hey, a holiday’s a holiday, and everyone loves a good holiday, which is why the Kremlin continues making them up. Now taking bets for the next day of whateverthefuck.