Russia just celebrated a recently adopted holiday called - Day of Unity. Before Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union and before Napoleon's invasion of the Russian Empire, unknown to many non-Russians there was the Vatican led Polish/Lithuanian invasion of Russia during the early 1600s. This invasion of Russia by the then "West" eventually led to series of epic battles that eventually expelled the invaders from Russian territory between 1612 and 1618. With the western forces soundly defeated, Russia finally managed to unite as a nation, eventually forming one of the greatest empires in world history. The clear political message of this newly adopted national holiday, its strong play on Russian nationalism and its subtle promotion of distrust towards the West is unmistakable. A high budget action film about this historic event called 1612 was released just last year to resounding international acclaim (see film trailer below).



Russia's President Honors Liberators on Unity Day

President Dmitry Medvedev attended celebrations of Russia's Unity Day in the Kremlin on Tuesday, and gave a speech hailing the 1612 liberation of Moscow as a key event in the nation's development. Russia has marked Unity Day each November 4 since 2005, following a 2004 law signed by then-president Vladimir Putin. The holiday commemorates the expulsion of Polish-Lithuanian occupiers from Moscow. "The volunteer corps was led by Dmitry Pozharsky and Kuzma Minin - these were true patriots, and their manliness, ability to rally the people, and loyalty to the fatherland defined the destiny of our country as an independent, self-reliant, and strong state," Medvedev told guests at the Kremlin, including leaders of non-governmental and cultural organizations, scientists, and prominent Russians living abroad. The president said Unity Day has added significance amid difficult times for the country. "This year was not an easy one for Russia. In a time of trials - military, political, and economic - we felt your support, your true love for Russia, for the people who live and work here." The ruling United Russia Party has organized various public celebrations to be held throughout the country, marking Unity Day. Unity Day effectively replaces celebrations of the Bolshevik Revolution, which had been held on November 7. Celebrations were moved forward by three days to avoid associations with the revolution.


Action Movie An Allegory For Putin's Russia

In a film that hit cinema screens this week, patriotic Russians despairing at the lack of a strong leader rise up, throw out their Western overlords and make Russia a proud country once again. It could be a documentary about how President Vladimir Putin put an end to the turmoil that followed the Soviet Union's collapse. In fact, it is based on a period in the 17th century known as the "Time of Troubles". But the parallels may be more than a coincidence: the film was commissioned by the Kremlin to mark National Unity Day on Sunday, and the director makes little secret that it is an allegory for modern Russia. The film is being released a month before Russia votes in a parliamentary election that many observers say is a referendum on Putin's rule, during which he has accumulated huge power and hit back at what he calls Western encroachment. "I ... consider the 17th century an extremely important period in our history, without which you simply cannot understand Russia," director Vladimir Khotinenko said in an interview with the Izvestia newspaper. "And now those times are really relevant," he said. "I am talking about the period after Perestroika. We lived in a Time of Troubles. Its duration even coincided with the one in the 17th century." He added: "I'm convinced -- and I have nothing against democracy -- that Russians have a strong desire for a Tsar."


The film, called "1612", centres around a ragtag group of Russian peasants who assemble what cannons they can and employ the services of wayward knight to dispatch their Polish occupiers. It is an action movie, featuring huge battle scenes, sword-fighting in period costume, stunt horse-riding and a siege at a castle. It also has mythical elements: talking fish and a unicorn feature in the story. At a lavish premiere in Moscow this week, limousines disgorged VIP guests onto a red carpet and two models in white leather outfits handed out glasses of birch-flavoured vodka. The Time of Troubles is the term used in Russia to describe the period starting in 1598, when a ruling family dynasty in what was then known as Muscovy died out. In the absence of a true royal descendant, Russian peasants fell under the rule of foreign powers, including Swedish, Lithuanian, German and Polish occupiers. That period ended when the Romanov dynasty took over the throne in 1613. Many Russians see Putin as a leader who brought stability and prosperity to the country after a new Time of Trouble -- the post-Soviet 1990s marked with economic chaos, political turmoil and Western blocs moving closer to Russia's borders. Critics though say he has sacrificed democracy to achieve stability and has taken on the role of a new Tsar. The film has an impeccable pro-Kremlin pedigree. It was produced by Nikita Mikhalkov, a director who won the 1994 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for his "Burnt by the Sun". Last month he put his name to an open letter asking Putin -- required by the constitution to step down when his second term ends next year -- to stay in office. The Internet news site reported that oil tycoon Viktor Vekselberg pitched in $4 million of his fortune to help finance the film. He has made a name for himself by using his wealth to buy back Russian cultural treasures -- including a collection of Faberge eggs -- that had been sold abroad.


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