'Russia Day' celebrated throughout country

Massive celebrations have taken place in over 800 cities across Russia with the major events unfolding in Red Square, the heart of Moscow, where about 15,000 people were enjoying famous Russian pop and rock stars' concert.

Starting from 2200 local time (1800 GMT), the fireworks were seen across Moscow. And people have been continuing celebration throughout the night.

In the Russian Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, the military laid wreaths at the memorial of the Pacific Fleet. The region's best musicians gathered on the main square to perform for the public.

In Krasnoyarsk, a huge flowerbed has been turned into a symbol of the holiday. Young people spent the whole night laying out the word ‘Russia’ in flowers.

In Khabarovsk, school children took part in a bicycle race to celebrate the holiday.

In the country's southern Bashkortostan republic, the national holiday coincides with the anniversary of the region's capital Ufa.

Russia Day was also being celebrated in Chechnya. Around 10,000 people from different youth movements have gathered in the centre of capital Grozny.

The history of the holiday dates back to June 12, 1990, when the Russian Parliament declared its sovereignty. It was an attempt to gain more autonomy from the already unstable Soviet Union. Originally called Independence Day, it has changed its name twice since being introduced, and has become the main state holiday.

“The birth of a new Russian state was very hard and traumatic. So when the President called the break-up of the Soviet Union the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century, it was true. For many people the break-up of the Soviet Union meant their way of life was ruined and that was a trauma in itself, ” Aleksey Zudin from the Centre of Political Technologies explained.

Meanwhile, earlier on Tuesday President Vladimir Putin presented State Prizes to twelve of the country's most prominent people.

“I want to congratulate all those who receive the prize. In Russia we are now paying more attention to the rebirth of science and culture. We understand that the development of culture and science are the base for the prosperity of the country and strengthening of state sovereignty. We have to ensure the achievements of creative people become an integral part of the global civilisation,” said President Putin at the ceremony.

Among the prize winners there were three Russian scientists, responsible for the development of three generations of nuclear submarines, as well as Svetlana Zakharova, Bolshoi theatre ballet dancer.

On top of the list there was the renowned novelist and historian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Aged 88, he was unable to attend the ceremony. It was his wife who received the award on his behalf. Still, he recorded a short speech that was played for those present.

“At the end of my life I have a hope that my collection of historical materials, stories, images and characters from the rough and cruel period of our history that I have gathered will live on in the memory and consciousness of my compatriots,” the writer said. “These hard experiences of ours might yet come to our help in case of the repetition of similar unstable periods in our society’s development. They will work as a warning and as prevention against possible regressions downwards.”
After the ceremony President Vladimir Putin visited Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn at his house outside Moscow.

“I highly appreciate your visit. There are millions of issues that require your attention and I cannot imagine how you have managed to find time to visit me,” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn noted during the meeting.

“I would like to thank you for your work for the benefit of Russia. Even today you continue working. You have always stood by your views, throughout your entire lifetime,” Vladimir Putin replied.