Prisoners of the Red Army

MOSCOW – Some of the most interesting artifacts of the Soviet Union in Russia are the holidays that continue to be celebrated, almost two decades after the fall of communism. On February 23, Russians celebrate the “Day of the Defender of the Fatherland,” a rough equivalent of Father’s Day but with a militaristic flavor. On this day, daughters, wives, and girlfriends give presents to Russian men and lavish them with attention. (In fairness, there is also “Women’s Day” – March 8 – and a newly popular Valentine’s Day.)

During Soviet times, February 23 was called the “Day of the Soviet Army and Navy,” and celebrated the creation of the Red Army. The holiday received its current name in 2006, and, according to a recent survey by the Russian pollster FOM, 59% of Russians consider it to be special or significant (32% do not).