Russia's October Revolution Anniversary Is Marked In November: Here's Why

Russia will mark 100 years since its 1917 October Revolution on Tuesday—which, confusingly, is November 7. 

It goes without saying that a great deal changed when Vladimir Lenin led the Bolsheviks in their overthrow of the Russian state on 25 October, 1917, not least the fact that from then on the anniversary of 'Red October' would be marked in November. 

That is because prior to 1917, the Russian Empire and its Tsars followed Eastern Orthodox Christianity in contrast to Western Christian nations, which retained an allegiance to Rome. The primary reason for this split, bizarrely, was due to calendars. 

Orthodox nations—many among the first to adopt Christianity—had been marking their calendar with the help of a system that dated back to 45 AD. Called the Julian Calendar, it remained in force across much of Eastern Europe, including Russia.

But most of Catholic and Protestant Europe had broken with the Orthodox world over the calendar. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII recommended an update of the Christian calendar which would fix a small miscalculation of the Julian calendar, by which it was out of step with each solar year by 11 minutes.

11_06_Lenin he Russian national flag flies at half mast with a statue of the founder of the Soviet state Vladimir Lenin in the foreground in the centre of Stavropol during the day of national mourning for the victims of the weekend crash, April 12, 2010. Eduard Korniyenko/Reuters

This “new style” became the standard in much of Europe, adopting the Pope’s so-called Gregorian calendar. But kingdoms in the east disliked the revision and overruled the pope’s orders. Russia, still ruled by a religiously conservative monarch, Nicholas II, kept the “old style” into the 1900s, at which point the two calendars were off kilter from one another by full days.

When Vladimir Lenin and his atheist Bolsheviks fully seized power from the royal family in 1917, the time for change came.

Lenin vowed to do away with the philosophy of the former regime and as part of many breakneck changes to make the empire an international, Marxist state, announced that the Soviet Union's calendar would change to the Gregorian one.

By the end of January 1918, the Soviet Union only marked events in the “new style” and the revolution that set the state up to begin with, in October last year, had now been uprooted to November.

But since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, the anniversary of the October Revolution being held in November is the least of its troubles—indeed, the issue has been a reluctance on the part of Moscow to celebrate the at at all. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin, reluctant to either promote Lenin’s message—in particular his leading of a government-toppling revolutions—has introduced cooked up 'Unity Day,' to be marked each year on November 4. The date marks a pre-Soviet victory over Polish forces and now is meant to embody a collective spirit of Russia’s people, without encouraging revolutionaries.

On the date of Lenin’s final triumph—November 7—Putin has also booked the venue where the Red Army would once march and salute the Soviet Union’s founding leader. Today, forces dressed in historic uniforms will still gather in front of the walls of the Kremlin, but will instead re-enact a World War II parade.

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