When I was little, on February 23rd we celebrated the Day of the Soviet Army and the Military Fleet. At school, we drew pictures and gave small presents to the boys who were duly expected to go to the army one day. It was a compulsory 2-year service during the Soviet times.
Then the USSR collapsed, and for some time this day attracted a lot of criticism. The Soviet Union was presented as a militarist state, whereas the entire world allegedly wanted to be friends with us.
And then it became a male version of 8th of March, with socks, underpants and antiperspirants being the presents of choice for many women to their men.
This year, following the Presidential address, this holiday, which is marked with an official day-off, has at once become a truly national celebration of our service to Russia. Vladimir Putin has uttered what I believed for many years: a family is akin to one’s native country (Rodina), which we call the Motherland or the Fatherland. And thereby each and everyone of us serve and defend it in whatever capacity we can.
For me as an historian, writer and translator, my service to Russia is in preserving its history, arts, and language; in disseminating these among the foreign speakers; in liaising between my country and those parts of the outer world that share our values.