Russia’s 28th Birthday Party

The Story

Phone and keyboard

This last week I got several calls and friend requests on VKontakte (Russian Facebook). Swamped with work, I just ignored it all until I couldn’t anymore. An acquaintance of mine started to call and text and it seemed important so I returned the call. He answered immediately, “Stacey, there’s a really cool opportunity for you to go to Moscow for the 12 of June holiday, Russia Day!!” How in the world he knew about all of this is a story in itself, but basically an acquaintance of an acquaintance of his. This is just one of those Russian moments where weird things happen and a cool experience pops up unexpectedly.

Russia is exactly as Churchill described it, “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma,” which is why we Russophiles (people who love Russia and study it) love it so much. It’s so complex and sometimes you just can’t explain it when something amazing happens. The only appropriate answer is, “It’s Russia!”, and we live for these moments!

So I talked to the acquaintance of my acquaintance’s acquaintance and she was talking a mile a minute. I’m honestly so impressed with my Russian that I can even understand a word of what she was saying. What I did understand was that Channel One wanted to create a short video clip of me to show on Russia Day and her team wanted to ship me and a friend out to Moscow so I could go up on stage during Russia’s birthday celebration. When Channel One, the number one TV station in Russia, comes knocking on your door… you can’t turn that down!

Filming with Channel One

So on Friday I met the Channel One team in the park in front of the Russian Museum. Camera, mic and news reporter in hand, we set out on the interview task in Russian. Dmitry, the reporter asked me several questions: Why did I move here, what did I like about it and what are my next plans for Russia. We shot some scenes of me walking around and snapping selfies (as if that’s what I do everyday) and that was that!

On the way to Moscow
6 am and excited to be going to The Scow!

Alex couldn’t make this trip so I took a fellow Russophile friend with me, Fiona. We caught the 6 am Sapsan to Moscow… Accommodation and transportation (business class!) were arranged for us. When we got in, we went straight to the hotel to drop off our stuff and freshen up before going to Red Square for the practice run. After that we had some down time and were able to meet up with another Peterpat friend who joined us in the Red Square.

Onstage in Moscow

I had little time to enjoy the performances with the girls before I had to go backstage to prepare. During this time, they played my video clip. I was a bit nervous about that, but the video was really nice! They caught all of my good angles and sweet words about Russia. Shortly after that, I left to go backstage to wait with the other participants until our turn to come out on stage. We all went up at the end of the party to sing the national anthem. OOPs! No one told me that was going to happen and I don’t even know the words. Even though I was standing there, looking like a doofus and not knowing or singing the words to the national anthem (is that even ok to sing another country’s national anthem??), I was still happy to be there, celebrating Russia in Red Square! What a cool experience!

On the big screen in Red Square!

Me on the big screen in Moscow

Russia Day

Boris Yeltsin

I’m pretty sure when I was called I was told that this was all going to be for Unity Day, but actually the holiday was Russia Day and Unity Day is in November. June 12 is the Russian Federation’s birthday! In 1990, the Soviet Union signed its reign over to the Russian Federation.

Although the handover was signed in 1990, it wasn’t a national holiday until 1994. At first, this holiday was called the Declaration of Russia State Sovereignty, but Boris Yeltsin changed the name in 1997 since many of the Russian’s didn’t really understand what they were celebrating. The holiday has been slow to catch on with the Russians: in 2005, only 15% of the population considered it a holiday and 29% in 2014. Still many Russian’s aren’t sure what the holiday is, but they are thankful for the time off from work. Monday and Tuesday of this week were days off but Saturday and Sunday of last weekend were work days.

Fireworks in Moscow

The celebration on the 12th included dances, concerts, fireworks and festivities around the city. In addition, the president usually gives state awards to prominent writers, scientists, humanitarian workers, etc. All public offices and schools are closed on this day.

Happy 28th birthday, Russia!

The next Russian celebration is Scarlet Sails in honor of the graduating seniors. Continue reading about it here.