First celebrated in 1919 the holiday marks the date in 1918 during the Russian Civil War when the first mass draft into the Red Army occurred in Petrograd and Moscow (on 17 February). In January 1919 it was decided to combine the celebration that day with the anniversary of the publication of the decree on the establishment of the Red Army (of 18 February 1918). In 1919 February 17 fell on Monday; so it was decided to move the holiday to the nearest Sunday - 23 February. Since then it stayed that day. It was originally known as Red Army Day (Russian: День Красной Армии). In 1923 it was officially named the Day of the Red Army and the Navy.
In 1949, it was renamed Soviet Army and Navy Day (Russian: День Советской Армии и Военно-Морского флота / Dyen' Sovyetskoy Armii i Voyenno-Morskogo flota). Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the holiday was given its current name in 2002 by Russian PresidentVladimir Putin who decreed it a state holiday (in Russia).
Officially, as the name suggests, the holiday celebrates people who are serving or were serving the Russian Armed Forces (both men and women), but unofficially, nationally it has also more recently come to include the celebration of men as a whole, and to act as a counterpart of International Women's Day on March 8.
The holiday is celebrated with parades and processions in honor of veterans, and women also give small gifts to the Russian men in their lives, especially husbands (or boyfriends), fathers and sons. As a part of the workplace culture, women often give gifts to their male co-workers. Consequently, in colloquial usage, the holiday is often referred to as Men's Day (Russian: День Мужчин, Den' Muzhchin).
In Kazakhstan Defender of the Fatherland Day is celebrated on 7 May.
In Tajikistan, the holiday is known as Tajik National Army Day (Tajik: Рӯзи Артиши Миллӣ Тоҷик), celebrating the Tajik National Army. However, it has been known that other military units, such as the Tajik Air Force, have taken part in the celebration.
In Ukraine it was never celebrated as a state holiday. In 1999 PresidentLeonid Kuchma recognized February 23 as Defenders of the Motherland Day. Today, even though it is not a public holiday, most women will still give some extra attention to male relatives, friends, husbands and boyfriends. The Ukrainian army has its own Army Day on December 6.
Last modified on 23 February 2014, at 20:41