First of May – Retro Hoilday or a Festival of Spring ?

Today in Russia we meet one of the most celebrated holidays of the Soviet Era – the First of May.

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Ironacally the holiday was the icon of the Soviet Union but originated on the other side of the world.

It all started in the USA back in 1886 when workers of Chicago had a strike demanding 8-hours working day. The strike was supported by actions of workers around the country. When strikebreakers tried to enter the factory, police took actions against the strikers and killed four of them. As a result mass actions in Chicago knows as a Haymarket massacre took place. During riots a bomb was exploded, lots of protesters arrested and convicted, four of them executed.

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Due to this events the Second Socialist International declared in 1889 May Day as the International Worker’s Day.

All this brought May Day to Russia. Ancient slavic nations in pre-christian era used to celebrate the first day of May as the holiday of the coming spring. At the end of 19th century the date aquired a political taste. Most of political activity was prohibited in Russia at the time, so the action took the form of mayovka – something between picnic and festival but with signes of a political action.

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In the Soviet time the holiday took the name of the Day of the International, and starting from 70’s – the Day of the International Solidarity of the Workers and became one of the key holidays. Official parade was held on the Red Square (but without military part since seventies).

Local parades were held also in each city and town of the Soviet Union. I remember this event since my childhood. Though officially it was a political event, by seventies it took the form of a nice spring festival. Everybody who wanted could take part in the procession, we carried flags, flowers and balloons. I still can record the feeling of hapiness and coming spring.

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In the post Soviet area together with the transformation of the name (the holiday became the Day of the Spring and Labour) also changed the mood. At the moment only few people take it as a holiday, just as a day out at the beginning of spring giving a chance to go to a country house for a spring routine. Of course some communnist activists take actions, but they look just as a king of a routine too.

Those of us who still have a memory of Soviet celebration of the day, cultivate celebration. But it looks more as a nostalgy for a juvenility, than a nostalgy for the era.

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