February 23rd is a State holiday in Russia and some of the former Soviet Union republics.
We don’t celebrate a Father’s or Mother’s day in Russia, but instead we celebrate the Defender of the Fatherland Day and the 8th of March which is International Women’s Day.
February 23rd is a day off and it is customary to present gifts to the men; members of the family, boyfriends and friends. However, many young people refuse to accept gifts, because they take the 23rd of February for a military holiday, and many of them have not taken the compulsory military service.
From the historical point of view on the 23rd of February 1918 the Red Army defeated the Germans near Narva and Pskov. It was only in 2006 that officially the fact of this victory over Germany was honored and the day became just the day of all the defenders of our fatherland.
Since 2002 it is an official day off for Russians. Most people celebrate the day. Among official events on this day there is a ceremony when flowers are laid to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin in Moscow by the Russian president. There is always a concert on television and in most cities there are fireworks in the evening.
Since it is a defender’s day it is necessary to mention a hero of the Soviet Union, whose name will stay in the Russian history forever.
Alexander Matveyevich Matrosov is one of the most famous and well-known heroes of the Great Patriotic war (22 June 1941 – 9 May 1945). He was born on the 5th of February, 1924 in Yekaterinoslav (now Ukraine).
On February 22nd 1943, in the battle for the village of Chernushki, which is now located in Loknyansky District, Pskov Oblast not so far from Estonia, Matrosov threw himself onto a German pillbox. He blocked the machine-gun with his own body, thus allowing his unit to advance. His self-sacrifice in battle was acknowledged and Matrosov was posthumously awarded the distinction Hero of the Soviet Union and the Order of Lenin.
In Soviet literature this deed has become a symbol of courage and love to the Motherland. For the needs of propaganda the event, which actually took place on February 27th, was transferred to the the 23rd of February, s0 that it falls on the day of the creation of the Red Army. The deed inspired the Soviet people and during the Great Patriotic war more than 400 people repeated it.
Joseph Stalin said that the great deed of Alexander Matrosov must serve as an example of heroism for the whole Red Army.