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High Days and Holidays

July Holidays
In mid-summer, there are fewer official state holidays. The red dates on the calendar give way to numerous professional, historical and religious dates marking the time of harvest.
Text by Elena Rubinova

Friday, July 3 Day of GAI (Russian Traffic Police)

The Russian Traffic Police was founded back in 1936. Since then, the organization has changed official names several times, but its social role has steadily increased as the country stopped looking at cars as luxury items in post-Soviet times. Those who live in Russia long enough are fully aware that GAI (also known as GIBDD) is also number one in the list of the most corrupt government organizations. Recently, the Russian daily newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets reported that an average traffic police officer receives up to 20,000 rubles per day in bribes. Just a few years ago drivers paid cash fines for not-tooserious offenses on the spot and got a receipt. In an effort to combat corruption, the authorities forbade this, and GAI now give out tickets, so the driver pays the fine through the state-run Sberbank. Unless, that is, a bribe is paid. Several years ago the first all-women unit of traffic police was set up because sociological research showed that women were less inclined to accept bribes. Maybe on the day of their professional holiday, traffic policeman will only check your documents and wish you a pleasant journey.

Sunday, July 12 Day of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul (Petrov Den), Day of Fishermen.

The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul is one of the oldest festivals in the Orthodox calendar, observed at least since the year 258. The Church has celebrated this day since Kievian Rus adopted Christianity in the 10th century. The two Disciples of Christ led separate lives, yet they are commemorated on the same day when they were allegedly executed in Rome. A festive liturgy is conducted at all working churches across the country on this occasion. Believers observe a fast over several weeks (the so called Petrovsky lent) before Peter and Paul Saints Day. Apostle Peter is considered the heavenly patron of fishermen and traditionally the date was marked as the Day of Fishermen.

Sunday, July 26 Navy Day and Day of Neptune

Navy Day was one of the first Soviet professional holidays, established back in 1939. Russia announced last year that its navy would be expanded, and would build up its presence in different regions of the world’s oceans. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to a severe decline in Russian naval forces, but the recent rearmament program which will last until 2015 has put the development of the navy on an equal footing with the country’s strategic nuclear forces. The Russian Navy currently comprises the Northern Fleet, the Pacific Fleet, the Black Sea Fleet, the Baltic Fleet, the Caspian Flotilla, Naval Aviation, marines and coastal artillery. Major celebrations were held by all the fleets last year. The celebrations in Moscow are usually held in Kolomenskoye, Izmailovo and Sokolniki parks. A water and sport show is traditionally staged in the Russian capital on the Grebnoy Canal in the Krylatskoye district. Various performances by actors and athletes, the Rimsky- Korsakov Naval Orchestra, demonstration fights by commandoes are on the agenda of the festivities.

Unofficially it coincides with the Day of Neptune, God of the Sea, who was also believed to test sailors who go into the sea for the first time by giving them a hard time. On that day, people enjoy all kinds of jokes and played around in rivers and ponds. So if you see someone swimming in his clothes it means that friends shoved him into the water to meet Neptune.

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