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High Days and Holidays

August Holidays
Text by Elena Rubinova

Wednesday, August 12 Air Force Day (Den VVS)

Air Force Day was established in 1997 by Presidential decree. The holiday has already become one of the favorite professional holidays and a truly nationwide event. In the turbulent post- Soviet 1990s, the Russian Air Force went through a number of very serious material and personnel reductions which seriously affected its operational capability, training, and manpower. It is hardly a secret that in those difficult years, Russian military pilots had just 20 hours of flying time per year, whilst the standard was 150 hours. Attempts have been made over the last few years to reverse this situation, with the aim of returning the former glory and high professionalism of a now by-gone era. The priority will be re-equipping it with new and upgraded hardware, infrastructure development, combat training and duty. It has been announced that by 2011 two new models of Sukhoi and MiG fighters will enter service, and tests of a fifthgeneration fighter will be completed. Russia’s Mi-26 heavy airlift helicopters and Mi-24PN helicopters will be upgraded.

In mid-August , shortly after Russian Air Force Day, the International Aviation and Space Salon (MAKS ) will be held in Zhukovsky (Moscow region), a town known for aircraft construction.

MAKS has been held regularly since 1992, and is now considered to be on a par with events such as the international aviation and space exhibitions in Le Bourget, France and Farnborough, England. It is truly one of the most spectacular air shows in the world, where the best Russian and international pilots put on spectacular aeronautic maneuvers. The Russian Air Force is represented by such outstanding famous teams as “Strizhi” (Swifts) and “Russian Vityaz” (Russian Knights). Every year the event is visited by a leading foreign flight team. The show has became a popular business convention, and invites leading aircraft manufacturers to demonstrate their latest wares. This year’s show is held August 18-23 and the flight’s program of MAKS 2009 will be as colorful and dynamic as ev

Friday, August 14 Medovy Spas or “Honey Day”

The Russian summer has plenty of holidays to celebrate the harvesting of crops, and preparation for winter. These holidays mostly fall in August, starting with the Presentation of the Holy and Life-giving Cross, also known as “Medovy Spas” on August 14. In Russian, “Medovy Spas” is associated with bees stopping bringing honey to hives, thus signaling that people can begin to collect honey. Despite the fact that autumn is a month away, the short northern summer is already indicating that the seasons are changing. Swallows and martins fly away on this day, roses stop blooming and cold dew covers the grass. The traditional custom was for parishioners to bring honey to church to be blessed, and there were also many stalls displaying a vast array of pleasant tasting honeys. In rural Russia this ritual is still widely observed.

Sunday, August 19 Transfiguration of Our Lord (Preobrazenie) Yablochniy Spas or “Apple Day”

On August 19 (August 6 according to the Grigorian calendar) the Transfiguration of Our Lord is celebrated; when Christ first showed them His divine glory. According to the Bible, Christ ascended a high mountain to pray with Peter, John and James. Whilst praying, the disciples fell asleep from fatigue. When they awoke, they saw that Christ was transfigured: His face shone like the sun, while His garments had become radiant as light. In great fear the disciples fell to the ground. Christ came and touched them, and said: “Arise and do not be afraid.” The disciples arose and saw Christ in His usual appearance. The Russian version of this festival, which has more to do with paganism than Christ is associated with the custom of eating apples and other fruits that have been blessed in church. Just as on the eve of Honey Day, signs of the seasonal changes are marked in the peasants’ calendar: the nights are becoming cold, cranes begin to fly away. Apples were ripening around this time, and again the custom was to pick them up and bring them to the church for blessing. People eat apples with honey, and then participate in games, activities, and performances.

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