It’s no secret that feminists have a tough row to hoe in Russia, where the #MeToo movement is pilloried by conservative television anchors and female porn stars alike. Russia is still very much a country for men and this seems unlikely to change in the future, and certainly not this week, as we gear up for that most masculine of holidays: Defenders of the FatherlandDay, or Men’s Day.
This year marks the centenary of Men’s Day, which was first celebrated in 1918 during a hastily organized rout of Kaiser Wilhelm’s forces by the even-more-hastily-organized Red Army. The Bolsheviks, anxious to forge new traditions, placed great emphasis on this foundation holiday in the following years. The day became a time to glorify the bravery and courage of the Red Army, which was busy giving the far less organized White Army a serious run for its money.
Red Army Day morphed over the years into Soviet Army Day, and during that era, it enjoyed elite “Red Day” status in the calendar. Today, the holiday is still celebrated, though with less emphasis on the Red Army, but the same amount of glorification for those who defend the Fatherland.
“But why just men?” I hear the more evolved of my readers ask, “Can’t women defend the Fatherland?”
Why shouldn’t you have to spend one year in the army which teaches you useful things like how to curse, and equips you to become a surly security person at a shopping mall?
The universality of mandatory male conscription in Russia has given rise to the idea that all men — not just the military types — should be fussed over, feted, and catered to on Feb. 23. In the more cynical and mercantile times we live in, the day has morphed into something of a one-way Valentine’s Day.
So, if you are a woman, this is the week to set aside your pink hat, your black dress, and your #TimesUp and #MeToo hashtags, and roll up your sleeves head into the kitchen to make some magic.
“And why should I bother?” I hear you cry.
Because of this old Russian phrase, which imparts cogent and practical advice to the potentially uppity female:
“As you meet the twenty-third, so shall you spend the eighth.”
The eighth, of course, refers to March 8 or International Women’s Day, which comes a mere two weeks after Defenders of the Fatherland Day.
What it boils down to is good old-fashioned blackmail: to get something on the eighth, you’ve got to give something on the twenty-third.
I have no choice in the matter: my HRH (Handsome Russian Husband) served in Soviet Army as an officer, so he’s expecting the full service on the twenty-third. While he puts his feet up and watches Offitseri for the three billionth time, I’ll be in the kitchen making something hearty and delicious — a meal fit for a Defender of the Fatherland and one that lays some major groundwork for the Eighth of March.
While this menu looks impressive, it is actually very simple and there is much that can or must be made ahead, which is always a good thing when you are catering to a Defender.