Vienna, February 14 – Like the Russian Orthodox Church, politically active young Russians increasingly view Valentine’s Day as something alien to their country’s national traditions and refuse to have anything to do with it, yet another measure of the extent to which Russians are turning away from many things they see as connected with the West.
And in place of Valentine’s Day on February 14, some now want to celebrate on July 8 the Day of Peter and Fevronia, a day that recalls a 13th century Russian ruler who gave up his throne to marry a commoner and was introduced last year by a committee including Russia’s first lady, Svetlana Medvedeva (rian.ru/spravka/20080708/113474642.html).
The leaders of Russia’s youth movements, Novosti reported yesterday, “unanimously” view Valentine’s Day as something that is “not ours” and thus an event that Russians ought not to treat in the way that Catholic and Protestant countries do, but some of them are more dogmatic in opposing its celebration with cards, candy and flowers than others.
Maksim Mishchenko, the leader of Young Russia, said that his organization will not celebrate Valentine’s Day, “a holiday which came from the West and which unfortunately like many things which we foolishly have taken from Western culture, it is completely perverted” and intended to “corrupt” Russian life (www.rian.ru/society/20090213/162031985.html).
Novosti reports that the pro-Kremlin youth groups, Nashi, and the Young Guard of United Russia are “somewhat less categorical” in their opposition to Valentine’s Day. Mariya Drokova, the commissar of Nashi, said that she saw nothing particularly wrong with the day but much preferred the Day of Peter and Fevronia instead.
Young Guard leader Ruslan Gattarov told the news agency that his group had not adopted “a harsh position” against Valentine’s Day because “we live in reality and this holiday at the present time enjoys popularity among young people. But we will not celebrate it because it really is not our holiday.”
“Our” holiday, he continued, is that of the Day of Peter and Fevronia because that on it, “love is understood not as sex” but as something “serious.” Mishchenko echoed that, saying the Russian holiday was important because it showed that someone was prepared to give up power for the woman he loved, an action that more closely “corresponds” to what Russians are about.
Polls conducted in Russia over the last few weeks suggest that many Russians nonetheless plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day (www.newizv.ru/news/2009-02-13/105638/ and www.annews.ru/news/detail.php?ID=177944), but the religiously inclined and the politically focused are apparently reluctant to make too much of it.
The Moscow Patriarchate this year as in the past has continued to condemn any commemoration of this Western holiday (www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=dujour&div=155), and Muslim leaders, perhaps not surprisingly, again said that the faithful should just say no to this Christian event (www.islamdag.ru/index.php?pageid=208).
But what is intriguing is that politically connected young people are now calling on Russians to celebrate the Day of Peter and Fevronia instead of Valentine’s Day, an appeal that suggests they and their leaders are interested in pushing forward a holiday that is not only uniquely Russian but one that enjoys the patronage of Svetlana Medvedeva.