Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Meaning of 1612


Suddenly Russia has got a new national day. On Friday, it for the first day celebrated November 4th as the new national day of the country.

It used to be November 7 with its military parades passing by the gerocratic leadership stuffed up on the roof of the Lenin Masoleum on the Red Square. That was the celebration of the coup in chaotic St Petersberg that in 1917 brought the Bolsheviks to power and dictatorship and misery to Russia.

But now November 7 is officially gone - although there are certain to be those that wants to keep the tradition going. We'll see tomorrow.

There is little debate about what happened in 1612: Prince Dmitry Pozharsky and Kuzma Minin, a butcher from Nizhny Novgorod, led the Nizhny Novgorod volunteer corps in forcing the Polish-Lithuanian invaders out of Moscow. The troops took Kitai-Gorod on October 22 and drove the so called False Dmitry out of the Kremlin on October 26.

The victories helped end the so-called Smutnoye Vremya, or Time of Troubles, a period of internal strife and foreign intervention - even Sweden was there - that began in 1598 with the death of Tsar Fyodor I and lasted until 1613, when the first Romanov assumed the throne and signed an order restoring the Russian state.

And it was the beginning of the long reign of the Romanov dynasty that did not end until the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in February 1917. His incompetence undoubtedly played its role in paving the way for the tragedies that were to come.

November 4 of 1612 has long been celebrated by the Russian Orthodox Church. For them, not unreasonably, that day was the victory of the forces of Eastern Orthodoxy over the forces of Western Catholicism. As such it was of course of profound importance.

Had Catholicism captured the Kremlin, and Orthodoxy lost Russia, much would probably have been different. Perhaps the developments of the subsequent centuries had made Russia more a part of the tradition of the West. Perhaps there had been less fertile ground for the totalitarianism that made Soviet communism such a horrendeous development.

We will never know.

But now it is this November 4 that will be celebrated as the national day of Russia.

It's certainly good that November 7 is gone. But it is interesting to note that as its replacement one hasn't chosen a date that could be linked to an opening of Russia to the West, but rather a day which is interpreted as "true Russia" defeating the allegedly evil forces of the West.

Things like these should not be overinterpreted - but neither should their significance be overlooked.