|Defender of the Fatherland Day|
|Observed by||Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan|
|Significance||Celebrates the armed forces and commemorates the founding of the Red Army|
|Observances||Wreath laying ceremonies, concerts, parades|
|Next time||23 February 2021|
Defender of the Fatherland Day (Russian: ? Den' zashchitnika Otechestva); Kazakh: ? ?; Tajik: ? ; Kyrgyz: ? ?; Belarusian: ) is a holiday observed in Russia, Turkmenistan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. It is celebrated on 23 February, except in Kazakhstan, where it is celebrated on 7 May.
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 of that day with the anniversary of the publication of the decree on the establishment of the Red Army (of 18 February 1918). In 1919, 17 February fell on a Monday, so it was decided to move the holiday to the nearest Sunday - 23 February. That choice of day has been retained ever since. It was originally known as "Red Army Day" (Russian: ? ? ). In 1923, it was officially named Day of the Red Army and the Navy.
In 1949, it was renamed to Soviet Army and Navy Day (Russian: ? ? - , romanized: 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 President Vladimir 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, both military and civilian personnel), but unofficially, nationally it has also 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 men in their lives, especially husbands (or boyfriends, fiances), fathers, sons and brothers. As a part of the workplace culture, women often give small gifts to their male co-workers. Consequently, in colloquial usage, the holiday is often referred to as "Men's Day" (Russian: ? , romanized: Den' Muzhchin).
One of the holiday traditions in Moscow is a ceremony near the Kremlin, the laying of wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Russian President, the heads of both chambers of parliament, military leaders, representatives of other branches of government, heads of political parties as well as Russian Orthodox Church officials arrive at the Alexander Garden which is located near the Moscow Kremlin walls. After a moment of silence, the national anthem is played and a solemn march of an honour guard unit passes. In the evening, the country's leadership is present at a concert dedicated to the holiday on the State Kremlin Palace. Also in the evening in Moscow and in many other cities of Russia, fireworks are displayed. A military parade on Omsk's Cathedral Square is held on 23 February.
In Belarus, the holiday (known as in the Belarusian language) celebrates the date of 23 February 1918, the date of the formation of the armed forces of modern day Belarus. It was made an official holiday by President Alexander Lukashenko on 25 March 2004. Traditionally, on 23 February, the President of Belarus lays a wreath at the monument on Victory Square in Minsk. Being that they both celebrate the holiday, soldiers of the Armed Forces of Belarus and Russian Armed Forces soldiers also hold joint festive events on 23 February.
In Israel, a version of the holiday exists as Yom HaZikaron, a national remembrance day observed in Israel held in 4 Iyar in the Hebrew calendar for all Israeli military personnel in the Israel Defense Forces who lost their lives in the struggle that led to the establishment of the State of Israel and for those who have been killed subsequently while on active duty in Israel's armed forces. This holiday is observed by a number of Jews who have emigrated from Russia and various post-Soviet states.
In Kazakhstan, Defender of the Fatherland Day is celebrated on 7 May. The Kazakh Armed Forces was established on this date 1992 and was only made national holiday in October 2012. The holiday often coincides with the Victory Day celebrations on May 9.
In Kyrgyzstan, Defender of the Fatherland Day is a non-working holiday. In Bishkek, there is a military parade of the Bishkek Garrison. The holiday was first introduced in the country by the Government of Kyrgyzstan on January 20, 2003. Personnel of the Kyrgyz Army have their own professional holiday on May 29, which is the Day of the Armed Forces of Kyrgyzstan.
February 23 is an official holiday in the partially recognized Republic of South Ossetia. The country's leadership pay to veterans who served in the Soviet Army as well as all those who served in the Armed Forces of South Ossetia and died in the 1991-1992 South Ossetia War and the Russo-Georgian War. The holiday also coincide with festive events that surround the creation of the Ministry of Defense of the republic.
In Tajikistan, the holiday is known as "Tajik National Army Day" (Tajik: ? ), 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 Transnistria, Defender of the Fatherland Day is a public holiday. The main celebrations are held in Tiraspol. They are attended by the President of the republic and the heads of defence/law enforcement agencies. By decree of President Igor Smirnov on 13 June 2001, it was included in the list of professional holidays and is a non-working holiday.
Defender of the Fatherland Day (Turkmen: Watan gününi? goragçysy) in Turkmenistan is celebrated on 27 January, celebrating the anniversary of the founding of the Armed Forces of Turkmenistan. It was previously celebrated as Army Day until President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow changed its name in 2009. The Ministry of Defense organizes festive concerts and activities in military units on this day. The current military doctrine was adopted on the eve of the holiday in 2016.
In Ukraine, Defender of the Fatherland Day (Ukrainian: ? / Den' zakhysnyka Vitchyzny) was never celebrated as a state holiday. In 1999 President Leonid Kuchma recognized 23 February as Defenders of the Fatherland Day. President Petro Poroshenko deprived the day of this status on 24 August 2014; according to Poroshenko, Ukraine should not celebrate the holidays of the "military-historical calendar of Russia" but "will honor the defenders of our homeland, not someone else's". On 14 October 2014, a decree by Poroshenko moved the celebration to that day instead by creating Defender of Ukraine Day.
Today, even though it is not a public holiday, many women will still give some extra attention to male relatives, friends, husbands and boyfriends, especially to those serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.Armed Forces Day for the entire Armed Forces is celebrated yearly on 6 December with special programs and nationwide gun salutes and fireworks displays.