Snow, Putin & the other Vladimir: Russians rally on Unity Day

November 4, 2016. President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill lay flowers at the monument to Minin and Pozharsky on Red Square as part of events marking National Unity Day © Alexey Druzhinin
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin urged the Russian people to face modern challenges by relying on traditions of unity as he unveiled a monument to a medieval ruler who brought Christianity to Russia’s precursor as Russians celebrated National Unity Day.

Putin said that the Christianization of the medieval Slavic state, which was a predecessor of modern Russia, Ukraine and Belarus was a “key and pivotal deed” of Grand Prince Vladimir the Great, whose choice of faith “has become the common spiritual root for the people of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.”

“Prince Vladimir laid down the moral principles and value system that still define our life,” Putin said, calling the medieval ruler, who lived in the 10th century AD, the spiritual founder of the Russian state. He was attending an unveiling ceremony with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill, and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

November 4, 2016. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia speaks at a ceremony to unveil a monument to the Holy Prince Vladimir, Equal of the Apostles, in Moscow's Borovitskaya Square on the National Unity Day © Vladimir Astapkovich

"Today, our duty is to jointly stand up to modern challenges and threats, relying on the priceless traditions of unity and accord, moving forward and safeguarding the continuation of our 1,000-year history," the Russian president said, speaking on the Day of National Unity.

The 17.5-meter tall bronze monument featuring Prince Vladimir in flowing robes with a sword in his left hand and a cross in his right was installed in Moscow city center between the Kremlin and the Lenin Library.

The unveiling of the monument comes on the day when Russians all over the country celebrate the Day of People’s Unity also known as the National Unity Day – a holiday established in 2005, which commemorates the actions of a 17th century popular unity movement that expelled Polish occupation forces from Moscow in November 1612.

Earlier, Putin laid flowers to the monument located on the Red Square that commemorates Prince Dmitry Pozharsky and merchant Kuzma Minin, who led a 17th century popular unity movement and gathered an all-Russian volunteer army that managed to expel Polish forces from Moscow, thus ending a period of deep political crisis in Russia, known as the Time of Troubles.

The flower-laying ceremony was also attended by leaders of all Russia’s major religious denominations.

© Alexey Kudenko

Meanwhile, numerous social activities and cultural events were held to celebrate the occasion. About 650,000 people took part in more than 1,000 festive ceremonies all over the country, according to the Interior Ministry.

In Moscow, 80,000 people braved the snow and cold and joined a march held in the city center under the slogan “We are united!” The march, which was attended by the members of major political parties, NGOs and youth movements, ended not far from the Kremlin, where a massive rally was held, followed by a concert.

The demonstrators were waving Russian national flags, the flags of the various Russian regions and flags with the orange and black colors of the Saint George Ribbon, which became a symbol of the fight against fascism in World War II. They were also holding banners and placards expressing support for the policies of the government.

Moscow also hosted various cinema festivals, historical exhibitions and even medieval reenactments on National Unity Day. A huge laser show dubbed “the Festival of Light” was held in St. Petersburg. Russian regions celebrated the occasion with ethnic festivals and rallies.

Festive events were organized in a number of other Russian cities, such as Sochi, Volgograd, Novosibirsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Saratov and Sevastopol.