Russia celebrates on March 8 International Women's Day, a holiday of tulips, daffodils and mimosa. The day can hardly be called international as it is widely observed only in Russia and some former Soviet republics.
But Russian women who become queens for the day on March 8 really do not care. Neither do they care that this first spring holiday was once called the Day of Women's International Solidarity for Equal Economic, Social and Political Rights.
Russian women hardly remember that the celebration was initiated by German Socialist Clara Zetkin in 1910 as a day for revolutionary women, not a Fair Lady. The holiday was first observed in Russia in 1913. After the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, March 8 became a public holiday. Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev declared March 8 a day off in 1966.
The Soviet Union collapsed and although some call March 8 a Communist anachronism, it remains one of the most popular holidays in Russia, having turned into a national mixture of St. Valentine's and Mother's Day.
Just imagine, 25 streets are named after March 8 in Moscow and the surrounding Moscow Region alone while the total number of streets with the same name across Russia is over 800.
Why March 8, one may ask. According to a popular version, the roots of the holiday date back to 1857 when women working for New York factories staged a protest against severe labor conditions and low wages and demanded equal rights with men. The rally, which allegedly took place on March 8, was dispersed by the police. However, this fact has never been confirmed.
The roots of the holiday may go even deeper into history. Ancient Romans, for instance, celebrated matronalia, a festival of women, at the beginning of March. The festival was held in honor of the goddess Juno, a patron of married women. On this day, husbands gave their wives money and other presents and even female slaves were relieved from their duties.
Modern Russian women are not at all feministic. They do not fight for their rights but on the contrary want to be loved, admired and taken care of. A few of them go into politics. The Russian government can boast two female ministers, Economic and Social Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina, a strict brunette, and Health and Social Development Minister Tatiana Golikova, a charming blonde. Only two out of 83 Russian regions are headed by female governors, St. Petersburg (Governor Valentina Matviyenko) and the Khanty-Mansi autonomous district (Governor Natalia Komarova). And it is still hard to imagine that a woman could some time be elected the president of Russia.
A Russian woman, no matter who she is - a politician, a business lady or a schoolteacher, first of all considers herself a wife and a mother. Maybe this is one of the reasons why many foreigners give preference to Russian brides rather then marry their female compatriots.
On March 8, which is often referred to as the holiday of spring, love and beauty, women of all ages receive flowers, candies, perfumes, jewelry and other gifts from their husbands, children, male colleagues, fellow students and classmates. Even traffic policemen are lenient to female drivers on their holiday, pardon minor traffic violations and even give them flowers. On this day one may notice surprisingly long lines at jewelry stores while profits of flower vendors are soaring. On March 9, many Russian men sigh with relief and congratulate each other on the end of the March 8 rush. Opinion polls say that only 4% of Russians consider this holiday unimportant.
The figure is not mentioned by pollsters but undoubtedly 100% of Russian women wish each day was like March 8 as men should not really need a special day on the calendar to appreciate women.
The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
MOSCOW, March 8 (RIA Novosti, Irina Ryapolova)