National Unity Day: the history of Big Day

November, 4

On 4th of November Russia celebrates the National Unity Day.

On 4th of November Russia celebrates the National Unity Day. The Holiday was established by the Federal Law “On making changes to the Article 1 of the Federal Law "On days of military glory (days of victory) of Russia" signed in December of 2004 by the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. For the first time in Russia this new all peoples holiday was celebrated on 4th of November, 2005. The National Unity Day was established in commemoration of events of 1612 when peoples’ volunteer army lead by Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharskiy freed Moscow from Polish Invaders. Historically this Holiday is associated with end of Dark Times in Russia in XVII century. Dark Times was a period from death in 1584 of Ivan the Terrible and till 1613 when the first of Romanovs Dynasty enthroned the Russian throne, it was an era of deep crisis of Moscow State caused by termination of the Rurics ruling dynasty. Dynasty crisis soon grew into national-public one. United Russian State split, and many imposters appeared. Widespread robbery, mugging, theft, bribery, endemic drinking stroke the country. Many contemporaries of Dark Times thought that final ruin of “Lightest Tsardom of Moscovy” occurred. Power in Moscow was usurped by “heptarchy” (semiboyarschina) headed by the prince (knyaz) Fedor Mstislavskiy who allowed Polish army in Kremlin with purpose to set in Russian throne the catholic king’s son, Vladislav. During that hard for Russia times, the Patriarch Hermogen called Russian people to stand for protection of Orthodoxy and drive Polish invaders out of Moscow. "It’s time lay down the soul for the Home of Holy Mother of God!" - the Patriarch wrote. His call was taken up by people of Russia. The widespread patriotic movement for liberation of capital from polish began. The First peoples’ Army (militia) was lead by Ryazan vaivode (warchief), Prokopiy Lyapunov. But because of conflict between nobility and Cossacks, who were framed up and killed the vaivode, the militia fell apart. Untimely anti-polish riot that began in Moscow on 19th of March, 1611 got beaten. In September 1611 "the merchant", Nizhegorodskiy Country Warden addressed the townsfolk with call of gathering the peoples’ army. During towns meeting he gave his famous speech: "Orthodox people, let us want to help the Moscow State, let us make every effort and not pity our lives, and not only lives - we will sell our yards, we will pledge our wives, children and will bow low to ask somebody to become our master. And how praised we all be by Russian Land because from such a small town as ours such a big deed will happen". Upon Minin’s call towners began giving “every third coin" to gather militia. But voluntary contributions were not enough. So there was announced mandatory collection of “every fifth coin”, i.e. everybody had to contribute to the treasury of militia one fifth of his income to pay to service class people. Following Minin’s proposal for the post of vaivode there was invited 30 years old Novgorod Prince (knyaz), Dmitry Pozharskiy. Pozharskiy did not took the offer straight forward, he agreed to become vaivode on condition that towners would themselves elect assistant for him who would be responsible for militia treasury. And thus Minin became “man elected by entire land”. So the second militia was lead by two men elected by people and entrusted by them. Under banners of Pozharskiy and Minin the huge for that times army of over 10 thousand service local people gathered, up to three thousand Cossacks, over one thousand of Streltsy and many "donated people" of peasants.

All Peoples’ Army united representatives of all classes and all peoples of the Russian State to liberate Russia from foreign invaders. With Miracle-Working Icon of Kazan Mother of God appeared in 1579, Nizhegorodsk militia on 4th of November, 1612 took by storm Kitay-Gorod (China-Town) and drove polish out of Moscow. That victory became strong impulse for renewal of the Russian State. And icon became subject of special warship. At end of February of 1613 Assembly of Land represented by all classes of country, i.e. nobility, boyardom, clergy, Cossacks, Streltsy, taxed peasants and delegates from many Russian towns elected the new tsar, Mikhail Romanov (the son of Filaret, the Metropolitan), the first Russian tsar of Romanovs dynasty. The Assembly of Land of 1613 became the final victory over the Dark Times, the triumph of Orthodoxy and National Unity.

Belief, that it was the Icon of Kazan Mother of God that helped to gain victory, was so strong, that Knyaz Pozharskiy for his own money built Kazan Cathedral on edge of the Red Square. Since then the Kazan Icon is worshiped not only as the Patroness of the House of Romanov, but by order of the Tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich who ruled in 1645-1676, there was established mandatory holiday on the 4th Day of November as Day of Gratitude to All Holy Mother of God for her help in liberation of Russia from polish invaders (the holiday was celebrated till 1917). In Church Calendar this Days is entered as Celebration of the Kazan Mother of God in commemoration of liberation of Moscow and Russia from polish invaders in 1612. Thus, the National Unity Day, by essence, is not new one, but is rather a return to old tradition. During National Unity Day in different towns of our country political parties and public movements organize meetings, marches and concerts, charity and sports events.