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Defender's Day

Defender's Day 2018 and 2019

Defender’s Day is a new and controversial Ukrainian holiday every 14 October. It was established by decree of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and soon afterwards ratified by parliament. In 2018, Defenders Day falls on a Sunday.

YearDateDayHoliday
201814 OctSunDefender's Day
15 OctMonDefender's Day Holiday
201914 OctMonDefender's Day
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Defender’s Day is a day designed to honour Ukraine’s past and present military heroes in their struggle for Ukrainian freedom. The new holiday is tied up in the current struggle in Ukraine between pro-government elements and pro-Russian separatist forces. It replaces the 23 February “Defender of the Fatherland” holiday that has roots in the Soviet Era, but pro-Russian areas of Ukraine still celebrate the old holiday and reject the new one.

Defender of the Fatherland Day is also kept by Russia and some other former-Soviet Republics and was originally instituted as “Red Army Day” to commemorate the first big drafts of soldiers into the Communist Army in 1918, which helped the Red Russians defeat the White Russians in the Russian Civil War.

When former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych broke his promise to strengthen ties with the West and signed a trade deal with Russia instead, that along with other accusations of corruption, led to an uprising in 2014 that ultimately impeached and ousted him. Russia did not recognise his removal, however, and had long wished to reclaim Crimea, a part of Ukraine that had formerly been a part of the Russian Federation.

A referendum had already been held in which Crimeans chose to continue as part of Ukraine, but Russia secretly moved in paratroopers, seized Crimea, and held a new referendum in which union with Russia won. Also, in the “Donbass” region of eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian rebel groups formed, leading to pitched battles. A ceasefire has now been agreed to, but tensions nevertheless continue.

The reason given for choosing 14 October is that this is also the date of the Feast of the Intercession, which is a traditional day on which Ukrainian soldiers have been honoured. It is also the day on which the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA) rose up against the Soviets during World War II, but since the UIA also “teamed up with” the Nazis in fighting the Communists, the date being associated with them has been criticised by some.