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12 Jun, 2008 15:18

Holiday mood sweeps Russia

Millions of people across Russia have been enjoying a long weekend which began on Thursday with the country's national holiday. The Declaration of Sovereignty was adopted on 12 June 1990, when Russia was still a republic within the USSR. The document pave

Plenty of events were scheduled for the day in Moscow, including a laser light show, concerts and fireworks.

Thousands of people gathered on Red Square to watch performances by Russian bands and singers. In order to prevent any outbreaks of violence, security was increased and alcohol banned in the area.

June 12 is a relatively new date in Russia’s holiday calendar and has only been celebrated since 1994.

According to a recent poll, only 37 per cent of the population know about Russia Day.

During its 14 years as a public holiday, the name has been changed three times.

The significance of the events leading to this day, however, remain a mystery for many Russians.

On this day in 1990 the Parliament of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic – part of the USSR – almost unanimously approved a declaration of its sovereignty.

Sergey Filatov was one of the 907 people who voted in favour of the document, believing in the dire need for changes.

“The declaration's most significant intention was to make way for reforms – economic and political. It made way for a new constitution. And we weren’t sure until the voting ended that the declaration would go through. No one had a clear majority back then. And when it was announced, all the deputies rose in celebration of this historic moment,” said Sergey Filatov.

Despite the euphoria that met the declaration of sovereignty, not everyone feels it has lived up to expectations.

“I have mixed feelings about the declaration. On the one hand, it was a victory, a great victory of the people over the crusty bureaucratic system. But then, the changes that took place in the following years weren’t as great or as significant as we had hoped back then,” said former Soviet Deputy Vladimir Isakov.

Nearly a thousand people put their faith in the declaration of sovereignty and the changes it would bring.

But there were 13 men who voted against it and18 years on their opinions haven’t changed.

“Back then, I voted almost mechanically. I knew this wasn’t a good thing to do. And even though today, Russia is much better off, in many aspects, I still believe it was the wrong thing to do. If I was asked to vote again today – I'd still vote the same way,” former Soviet Deputy Ivan Galushko said.

These conflicting opinions surround Russia's newborn holiday, from the name changes to people's perceptions of its importance. But the fact that it is an integral part of modern Russian history, a pivotal point of sorts, cannot be denied.