may-holidays-in-ukraine-russiaMay in Russia and Ukraine is the month with the most holidays — it has more days off than December! It is also the time of the year when spring takes full charge, this is why May holidays are universally adored throughout the countries of the former Soviet Union.

This year holidays add in total to 7 days off within the space of two weeks, which is why some companies close down their doors from 1 to 11 May, allowing their employees to use this time for travel or other needs. Some women from EM may be travelling or visiting family and friends during this period.

1 May is Labour Day

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1 May postcards

Since the times of the USSR, 1 May was celebrated as the Day of International Solidarity of Workers. Now in Russia the official name of this holiday has been changed to The Day of Spring and Labour, while in Ukraine it still remains listed as the workers’ day.

There are 2 days off reserved for this day, 1 and 2 May. Since in 2 May 2015 falls on Saturday, one extra day off is added (Monday, 4 May).

As such, both Russian and Ukrainian people will have in total 4 days off: 1 to 4 May.

9 May is Victory Day

Russians and Ukrainians will have 3 days off: 9-11 May, due to the public holiday 9 May falling on Saturday.

9 May 1945 is the date when Nazi Army surrendered to the Soviet Union, ending World War II with Germany. (The capitulation to Allied forces, which included the USA and UK, was signed the day before, on 8 May.)

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Victory Day postcards

9 May is celebrated in both Russia and Ukraine as the Victory Day. 8 May, as a pre-holiday day, will have shortened working hours with people leaving 1 hour earlier.

In 2015 ex-USSR countries celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Victory Day. Special anniversary celebrations will be held in Moscow, with leaders of several countries planning to attend the great parade in the Red Square. Other presidents and political figures were invited but many declined, due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. As compared to the records from 2005 celebrations, the list of attendees for 2015 gig seems somewhat shorter, although more countries were invited. A plethora of African leaders will replace lost participants from Europe, the USA, and Australia. (See the list below.)

The 70th anniversary of German surrender has been actively promoted throughout Russian media, pumping up patriotism and national spirit, which have declined after the local currency, rouble, lost half of its value in 2014, causing economical crisis and price hikes.

What Russians and Ukrainians do during May holidays?

Most people use these days to plant seeds and seedlings at their country gardens, which are very popular in Eastern Europe, as most people live in city apartments. During the summer season, which starts in May, citizens go to their country houses on weekends and many spend their vacations there.

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Russian countryside home with a garden (“dacha”)

Russian and Ukrainian families have small country homes, which are usually located in the vicinity of 1-2 hour drive or train ride. Most such homes are located within gardening communities, where people traditionally grow vegetables, berries, herbs, and fruit for their own consumption. Normal size of such plots is about 600-800 m² (717-956 square yards), with the largest part occupied by the garden.

More affluent people have large countryside homes, where they spend their summers but do not grow fresh produce. Such homes are usually within “cottage communities”, located within a short drive from the city.

On the Victory Day May 9, great numbers of people will be gathering outdoors to enjoy festive fireworks at night, and some may even get up early in the morning to watch the parade on TV. Only selected few will get invitations to the official spectacle, which will, no doubt, have tight security.

9 May 2015 Victory Day parade in Moscow, Russia

red-square-paradeUpdate 14 May 2015:

On 9 May 2015 16,5 thousand of Russian troops marched across the Red Square, with 143 airplanes forming figures in the air, and nearly 200 armoured vehicles roaming the streets of the historical Moscow location, making it the largest Victory Day parade ever since the times of USSR.

Victory Day parade in Moscow and similar demonstrations around the country also featured civil processions of citizens carrying portraits of their grandfathers and family members, who lost their lives defending their motherland during the World War II. Russian President Vladimir Putin walked in front of the column in the Russian capital, carrying a portrait of his ancestor who fought in the war.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping (in the centre) during the Red Squre parade 9 May 2015.

From 68 prominent foreign guests invited to celebrations, most country leaders declined participation, with less than 30 high-profile politicians showing up to witness the grand military procession.

According to BBC, the most prominent visitor in the Victory Day’s display of Russian military strength was Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was standing to the right from President Vladimir Putin. Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev took the place to the left of the Russian leader. A column of Chinese troops marched across the Red Square as a part of the ceremony for the first time during a Victory Day parade.

Other countries that joined in the viewing of the 9 May parade: India, Serbia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, Egypt, Palestine, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, South Africa, and a plethora of other African republics and states.

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Citizens carry photos of family members who fought in WWII.

None of western leaders attended, although many countries sent their ambassadors to take part in the celebrations during the holiday weekend. For example, Sir Nicholas Soames, a grandson of the wartime British leader Winston Churchill, arrived to Moscow for 9 May events, 70 years after his mother Lady Clementine Churchill joined Muscovites in 1945 festivities. He, however, didn’t attend the famous parade but participated in laying a wreath to the monument of the Unknown Soldier.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived to demonstrate her respect during May 10 happenings, also missing the central display that have been in rehearsals for months.

While most western ceremonies dedicated to the end of World War II, which had taken place in various countries across several continents, were designed to commemorate fallen heroes and lives lost, and had in general a sombre overtone, it was a completely different story in Russia. A Russian mobile company joined the campaign of stately patriotism with a slogan, “We are the country of winners”, capitalizing on the pervasive national pride.

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The Red Square display on May 9, 2015.

There was a general unease and even anger among regular citizens due to non-attendance of western leaders, which was depicted in the local media as a political snub and attempt to denounce Russian greatness. The mainstream view in Russia is that Soviet Union had the most profound impact in defeating Nazis in the war of 1941-45, and refusal to attend the ceremonies devoted to the 70th Anniversary of the Victory Day is considered as antagonistic and disrespectful.

One female member of EM wrote in her post May 9 comment: “I am not contacting men on the site right now because of the political situation in the world”. While the rest of the globe paid little attention to the events of 9-11 May in Russia, the local press had concentrated on preparations for festivities for months. If you think of general elections in your country and how much attention media pays to such milestones, multiply it by 100 and you may realize the scale of its perceived importance, which every Russian citizen had taken to heart.

Ukrainian celebrations

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Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko setting red poppies on a memorial wall.

Ukraine commemorations were aligned this year with countries of Western Europe, and took place on 8 May on a much more humble scale as the Memorial Day. The decision to move the official day of the celebrations was taken by Kiev officials in March 2015. The country also adopted red poppies as the symbol of remembrance, which have been traditionally used throughout Europe. On 9 May there had been an organized Peace March in Kiev.

Since the beginning of Russian-Ukrainian conflict in 2014, Moscow-led media portraits Ukrainian state as fascist, aligning it with Nazis during the World War II — a depiction, which Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko criticized during his 2015 Memorial Day speech.

The Ukrainian city of Donetsk, which is in the territory of pro-Russian activists, had its own Victory Day Parade with around 1,5 thousand armed soldiers marching through the central square.

 

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Mary
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Victory day, perhaps the most important holiday in the world. Even more important than the New year. Because there would be no victory, there would be peace over his head now exactly 70 years. thank you grandparents for your victory!!! Thank you to everyone who survived and all who died on the battlefield. Low bow to you! Happy holiday to all!

dailina
Guest
May holidays in Ukraine are considered by many people as a vacation. During the week we can go to the Black sea, in the Carpathian Mountains etc. There are inexpensive tourist camps and resorts, where we often have nice outdoor rest: near Kiev, Cherkassy, Dnepropetrovsk (Samara River), Odessa. And on Victory Day 9 May it is necessary to honor those who died in the World War II. And all should remember, that those who survived the war, having captured, returned to forced labor in Germany, survived the blockade, have suffered greatly, they were repressed during their lives. Eternal memory to… Read more »
Eugenia
Guest
May is a really wonderful time. It always seemed funny to me that we rest few days in the Day of Labour. However, nobody complains 😉 On the 1st of May lots of our families use to gather together and have a picnic somewhere in the forest or cottage. Shashlik(a dish of meat) is usually cooked in the open air for a holiday meal. And the Victory day is very important for most Russians. Plenty of different festivals and concerts are held, and a lot of people including veterans come to the main square of the city. We congratulate veterans… Read more »
Natali18
Guest

We are all human, and everybody know that the rest for us is an integral part of life. Personally, I always look forward to May, because it’s always full of holidays. For me it’s an opportunity to go from my native city for a few days. Holidays bring me a new forces and impressions. Don’t be sad at home, don’t waste your time! Enjoy a well-deserved weekend!

jeff
Guest
if a russian girl calls you on the phone, does this sound fishy. she has called me she has paid one half of a ticket. she wants me to pat the other. a visa is good for 3 month, so how come your government won’t allow travel one way. when the medical insurance will run out and they have to return. she has given me her address in oktaybrsk,marasanova house 7. i don’t want to hurt her if this is really and don’t get her a ticket and ruin her dreams. i am scared but hurting someone i would feel… Read more »
Melvin
Guest

The Victory Day is the equivalent to Memorial Day here in America, when we salute those brave men and women who sacrificed their lives in war and other battles so that we can enjoy the freedom we have. Our Memorial Day this year is May 25th. It also serves as an unofficial kickoff to summer; lots of barbecues and cookouts take place across America that weekend. I salute all those who have given their lives, Americans, Russians and Ukrainians.

Anna
Guest

Our family love May season! This is the time when all the relatives are meeting up and having a great time. In educational institutions, on city squares and in concert halls they will organize May 9th holiday and the festive parade in honor of the 70th Victory Day anniversary will be held!

Melvin
Guest

Couldn’t agree with you more Elena. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a world without wars, hatred, and poverty? if everyone got along and respected each other we’d all be in a better place.

Violet
Guest
The beginning of May is a good time for a rest with your family and friends. I always look forward to these days. If the 1t of May is not considered to be a great holiday in my family, the 9th of May we never forget to celebrate. I think that it`s not just a holiday … It`s time when we have to think about the heroism of our ancestors who gave their lives for our freedom and peaceful future. And now we must keep it for our children! But not to destroy it how many people, politicians and governments… Read more »
helga2015
Guest

If you are in Minsk on May 9th and interested in war history there are a lot of museums, exhibitions and parades ending with gorgeous fireworks. But in case you want to spend this day more romantically try to visit such uncommon place like “Troitskoye suburb”. People living there used to say “my house is the second one next to the Chemist’s painted yellow”. An evening date here will fascinate anyone with its attractiveness and enigmatic lantern lights.

RedHead
Guest

A lot of people in the Ukraine and Russia love may for it’s long holidays. And I think it is also facinating time too – the weather is finally get’s better (particularly in the Siberia), thise two dates get huge celebrations on the central squares of all the places in this particular countries. In Novosibirsk, for instance, there was a huge parade and salute in diferent parts of the city (main were in the central part for sure), and the First of May met us with the usual procession.

koryakina-2014
Guest

I love holidays in May most of all. If the weather is good it is a wonderful opportunity to go to picnic with friends and children. Anyway it is good time to spent with your children, parents and grandparents. And, guys, it is right time for the first date with your second half!

Michael
Guest

These are really great days for all of our countries. We must thank our grandparents for the life that they have given us. And it’s really a shame that in some countries the leaders are betraying the memory of the heros. People, wake up!

Spicy
Guest

I’m glad you’ve posted some information about these holidays! I love to spend Victory Day outside with my family or friends. It always makes me happy watching the parade and congratulating veterans.

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