The Soviet Union was officially created in 1922, however, if there was a date which could be considered as a birthday of the USSR, that would have had to be November 7th of 1917 — this was the day when in St Petersburg the Bolsheviks — the organised military revolutionaries, who later became the Communist Party of the USSR — came to power. The Russian Provisional Government which were the head of the country after the Tsar Nicholas II had resigned, was overthrown and the Soviets, taking the government buildings one by one, had finally captured the town.
The October Coup, as it was initially called, had later been renamed as we know it now - the Great October Socialist Revolution. Many attribute this change in terminology from a coup to a revolution to have a propaganda underline, as revolution is certainly perceived as having more weight and grandiosity that coup. Interestingly, the term “October” is no mistake: the revolutionary events did take place on the 25th October 1917, yet the calendar style was changed in 1918 from the traditional Julian calendar to the Gregorian style calendar. Thus 25 October 1917 became 7 November 1917, yet the title — the October Revolution — was left unchanged.
It is hard to explain briefly what had lead to these drastic events of 1917. The country was exhausted after the First World War. In March 1917 Tsar Nicholas II abdicated, and the Provisional Government came into power, although many refused to recognise it. The country was in crisis on the economic, social and political levels. Workers of many towns were on mass strikes, demanding better pay and better conditions. In towns the rates of unemployment were rising, while in countryside peasants were rebelling against landowners. The total bankruptcy was inevitable, which was odd, given that less that ten years prior to it, it was one of the most strongest economies in the world. Food shortages were becoming more and more frequent, and numerous conspiracies against the government began. So it was no surprise when the Bolsheviks’ Central Committee voted 10 – 2 for a resolution saying that “an armed uprising is inevitable, and that the time for it is fully ripe”.
The Provisional Government was residing in the Winter Palace and, when the fall of it was announced, a decree was adopted, giving the power to the Union of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, thus ratifying the Revolution. The peasants were officially granted the land. The workers were allowed to take control over the factories and now manage them as they saw fit. The banks were nationalised,and all private bank accounts were confiscated. The Church was outlawed, and its properties were seized and later redistributed as cinema theatres, leisure clubs, or any recreational venues. All foreign debts were repudiated, and the wages fixed at an artificially high level. Vladimir Lenin was declared as the head of the State, and the long journey to Communism had officially began.
The Bolsheviks viewed themselves as representing an alliance of workers and peasants and memorialized that understanding with the Hammer and Sickle on the flag and coat of arms of the Soviet Union. So the day was an official public holiday and the tradition to celebrate it with a parade, people marching in the streets with red flags and carrying red balloons and carnations — the official flower of the Revolution — had lingered for almost 70 years. The Red Square access roads in Moscow were re-constructed specifically for the November 7th annual Military parade showing off the latest developments in the Soviet weaponry.
Not even the Military parade of 1941 was skipped, the year Germany invaded into Russia. The Soviet Army tanks were moving that day across the Red Square and straight to the army front. That act itself was as important as a large military operation as the Soviet people were showing their desperate sublime heroism. It is believed that the same day, November 7th 1941, was planned by Hitler as the day of the grand victory march of German troops through the Red Square having conquered Moscow, but it didn’t happen.
The tradition to commemorate the day of November 7th was spread all over the country. Any town — no matter how big or small — would participate. The attendance often was compulsory.
By the end of 1970s the enthusiasm about this day started to cease. A great deal of years passed since the original Revolution and people stopped feeling that excited about the Soviet state. The celebration march of the Working People was now enforced by factories and other organisations: it was no longer voluntary. This military parade was not as popular anymore, the new generation of the Soviets was not interested in weaponry and the great world power of the Soviet Union. However, from the outside it still looked the same and it was almost impossible to register the tiny changes in the mood.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union the first Russian president Boris Yeltsin officially renamed the holiday in 1994, giving it a completely different meaning. November 7th became the Day of the Liberation of Moscow from the Polish occupation in the year 1612. The next year he came up with a new name and changed it to the Day of People’s Unity. Almost 10 years later, in the year 2004, Vladimir Putin changed the name again, bringing it back to the original roots: it became the Day of 1941 Military Parade on the Red Square in the city of Moscow in the memory of the 24th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. It stopped being a day off, rather, the Day of People’s Unity sprawled as a new holiday, celebrated nowadays on November the 4th. Who knows what the future holds for this day now.