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Tracking the tradition of Russian leaders’ addresses to usher in the New Year

Follow this article to learn the history of the Kremlin's greetings from the Soviet times to the present day

MOSCOW, December 31. /TASS/. On December 31, the nation is going to tune in before midnight to watch Russian President Vladimir Putin as he conveys his traditional New Year message, a few minutes before the Kremlin Clock chimes to usher in 2020.

Kremlin’s very first New Year address

The tradition of the country’s leadership conveying a New Year’s address to the nation dates back to New Year’s Eve 1935, after the holiday celebration had been officially resumed, when Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Kalinin, read out a brief address. On January 1, 1936, the Pravda newspaper published Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s photo and his greeting stating: "Happy New Year, comrades, wishing you new triumphs under the banner of Lenin and Stalin!"

During the Second World War as Soviet troops were fiercely repelling the Germans who were on the outskirts of Moscow, Kalinin also delivered a New Year’s address to all Soviet citizens on December 31, 1941 via radio, and his speech was devoted to the events on the frontlines of the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945).

Televised New Year greetings during post-war Soviet times

Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev inaugurated the tradition of televised New Year’s addresses to the nation. He broadcasted his first greetings on December 31, 1970 at 23:50. However, in 1975 this practice was abandoned due to Brezhnev’s illness.

During the late 1970s, a prominent Soviet news anchor, Igor Kirillov, read out the New Year’s greetings of the party and the government. Newspapers also published holiday greetings from the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the Supreme Council and the Council of Ministers.

After Brezhnev’s death in 1982, his two successors, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, did not make any New Year’s addresses, thereby pausing the annual tradition.

On December 31, 1985, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev revived the custom of the televised holiday addresses. In 1987, a Soviet-US ‘exchange’ took place, where Gorbachev addressed American citizens while Ronald Reagan congratulated the Soviet people. In December 1990, Gorbachev made his first and last New Year’s address as President of the USSR.

Presidential New Year’s messages today

Russia entered into a new era in the 1990s, transitioning to a market economy, with Boris Yeltsin as Russia’s first president. Over the next eight years, Yeltsin would deliver his New Year’s addresses on December 31. In 1997, he delivered his annual holiday speech together with his family.

On December 31, 1999, Russian citizens were offered two televised New Year’s addresses, one from Yeltsin, who announced that he was stepping down on that day, and one from his successor Vladimir Putin.

From 2000 to 2007, Putin recorded his New Year’s greetings on the Kremlin’s Ivanovskaya Square. He also made his addresses next to the Troitskaya Tower and the State Kremlin Palace. In 2013, Putin delivered two New Year’s messages. One was made several days before December 31, and aired for the citizens of Russia’s Far East. The president recorded the other address in Khabarovsk, where he came to the assistance of flooding victims.

On December 31, 2014, Putin conducted his New Year’s address for the first time near the Cathedral of Christ the Savior with a background view of the Moscow Kremlin. In 2015 and 2016, the president’s greetings were again delivered from the territory of the Kremlin.

After the head of state completes his greetings to the nation, both TV and radio stations will broadcast the chiming of the clock on the Kremlin's Spasskaya Tower, symbolizing the beginning of the New Year.