TASS-FACTBOX. February 23 marks Defender of the Fatherland Day in Russia. It was established by a federal law dubbed "On Russian Military Glory Days (Victory Days)," signed by then President Boris Yeltsin on March 13, 1995, and amended afterwards.
The holiday dates back to the initial years after the foundation of the Russian Soviet Republic. On January 28, 1918, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Vladimir Lenin (Ulyanov) signed a decree setting up the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army. On February 23, the recruitment of volunteers into the Red Army began.
Since 1923, February 23 has marked Red Army and Navy Day. In 1946-1992, the holiday was celebrated as Soviet Army and Navy Day, but in 1993 it was renamed Defender of the Fatherland Day.
In 2002, February 23 was declared a non-working day for the first time.
On Defender of the Fatherland Day, various ceremonies involving veterans are usually held, which among other things include laying flowers at war memorials. At night, celebratory gunfire and fireworks take place in Hero Cities (a Soviet honorary title awarded for outstanding heroism during World War II to 12 USSR cities and the Brest Fortress) and municipalities hosting the headquarters of district military commands, fleets and all-arms armies. The holiday is meant to honor military servicemen but it actually celebrates men on the whole, regardless of their age and profession.
Apart from Russia, several other former Soviet states (Belarus, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and South Ossetia) also celebrate February 23 as a holiday.