International Women's Day is celebrated annually on March 8 in many countries across the globe. Russian women first observed it on March 2, 1913. They held a demonstration in St Petersburg, which was then Russia's capital, demanding the right to vote.
The holiday's symbolic meaning has since shifted for many from being a day championing equal rights to a day when women receive praise for being "the weaker sex." Stories of these incredible women, awarded the highest honorary title of the Russian Federation, explain what is wrong with the term.
Nurse Irina Yanina
Irina Yanina, born in 1966 in the then Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, dreamed of becoming a doctor since childhood. In 1995 she enlisted in the Russian Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and served as a nurse in a medical company of the 22nd Operational Brigade. In July 1999, during the Second Chechen War, the young and talented professional was deployed to Dagestan.
Ирина Янина является первой и единственной женщиной, удостоенной звания Героя России за боевые действия в Кавказских войнах. pic.twitter.com/a4dgEz5hN2— Сталинский сокол (@Sokol_Stalina) 31 августа 2017 г.
On August 31, 1999, Sergeant Yanina was with an evacuation group which rendered assistance to wounded soldiers during the battle for Karamakhi village. At the risk of her own life she gave medical help to 15 wounded soldiers and under a hail of bullets rode into the battle in an APC three times, managing to rescue twenty-eight soldiers from the federal forces.
When she was trying to access the wounded for the fourth time, the enemy set on a counterattack. Irina organized the transport of injured soldiers and covered the operation with fire from an assault rifle. When their APC was hit by rocket-propelled grenades and set on fire, Yanina successfully helped the wounded to get out of the burning vehicle, but couldn't manage to get out of it herself and died in the fire.
Yanina was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Russian Federation on October 14, 1999.
Cosmonaut Yelena Kondakova
Yelena Kondakova, born in 1957 near Moscow, made history as the first woman to participate in a long-duration orbital expedition. She spent a record 169 days, 5 hours and 35 seconds in space. Her trip on the Soyuz TM-20 spacecraft to the MIR space station was a problematic one. Communication between the spacecraft and the Mission Control Center repeatedly failed, the translational hand controller didn't work properly, and during automatic approach to Mir's front port, the spacecraft unexpectedly yawed, so the crew had to take manual control of the Soyuz.
Yelena Kondakova was the third Soviet/Russian female cosmonaut to travel to space and the first woman to make a long-duration spaceflight pic.twitter.com/nkLBVBNwpY— Space Explorer Mike (@MichaelGalanin) 30 августа 2017 г.
Kondakova was awarded the title of Hero of the Russian Federation on April 10, 1995, 18 days after she returned to Earth following a five-month stay at the Mir space station.
Athlete Lyubov Yegorova
Former cross-country skier Lyubov Yegorova, born in 1966 in Seversk, a closed city in Russia's Tomsk Region, is considered one of the greatest athletes in modern Russian history. She is a six-time Olympic champion, three-time Olympic vice-champion, has won three gold medals, one silver medal and two bronze medals at various international competitions.
Now a St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly deputy, Yegorova was awarded the title of Hero of the Russian Federation on April 22, 1994 for remarkable achievements in sports and courage that she demonstrated at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Norway.
Student Marina Plotnikova
Marina Plotnikova, born in 1974 in Russia's Penza Region, was only 17, when she graduated from high school with excellent grades in 1991. On June 30 of that year she was spending the hot summer day at the Khopyor river with her younger sisters Zhanna and Lena and their friend Natasha.
Natasha went swimming, and when she suddenly started drowning, Marina immediately dove into the water and succeeded in dragging the girl out of the river. But then she heard cries for help from her sisters who had entered the water in a bid to help Marina but got caught in a whirlpool. Marina managed to help her little sisters, saving three lives that day, but had no more strength to save her own.
Marina was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Russian Federation on August 5, 1992. In 2004, a school where she studied was renamed in honor of the young hero.
Nursery School Teacher Marem Araphanova
Born in 1963, Marem Araphanova worked as a nursery school teacher in Galashki, a rural locality in the Sunzhensky District of the Republic of Ingushetia, Russia. In the early hours of October 26, 2002, a group of Chechen rebels entered the sleeping village in an attempt to take control of it without a fight.
But when several militants burst into Araphanova's house, the woman started shouting to warn her neighbors about the threat. Trying to silence Araphanova, the militants pointed an assault riffle at her husband. When the couple refused to comply with their orders, the militants fired at Araphanova's husband, but she shielded him with her own body.
The woman's heroism helped save the village from the militants: neighbors woke up and called law enforcement. Araphanova was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Russian Federation on June 2003.