from what was always a capitalist country, there’s a good chance you
don’t even know what this holiday is, but rest assured that it’s a big
deal in the former Communist world, particularly in Russia, where it’s
been celebrated for more than a century.
In the Soviet
Union, the holiday was meant to commemorate and inspire women in the
workforce. Today, it’s become something closer to Mother’s Day and
Valentine’s Day, all rolled into one. Men are supposed to show their
appreciation for the women in their lives, at work and among friends and
family, by gifting flowers.
Of course, International Women’s Day is also supposed to highlight
women’s fight for equal rights across the globe. In this spirit,
Russia’s Defense Ministry shared a few photos showing women in the armed
forces, with the caption, “Keep it up!”
Not everyone in the Russian government pulled off a
progressive message, however. In fact, some officials seemed strangely
confused about the very concept of equality.
mission to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
declared awkwardly, “Gender equality? Not today!” implying that March 8
is a day to honor women above men.
For others, like a company in St. Petersburg that manufactures
plastic-ties, International Women’s Day was an invitation to publish
violently sexist jokes at women’s expense.
The company later removed the advertisement,
graciously apologizing to all women — even women “without a sense of
humor.” The apology was so lame that it, too, soon disappeared from the
Aside from these unfortunate “jokes,” International Women’s Day was
also a chance for Russian officials everywhere to show off their wit,
charm, and creative flair. In fact, the Kremlin reportedly demanded it.
In a holiday ritual that’s both creepy and sweet, Russian traffic police stopped random women motorists and presented them with flowers.
The Russian riot police were also keen to show off their softer side.
The crowning achievement of course came from Putin himself, who took the opportunity to quote Russian Silver Age poet Konstantin Balmont.
“A woman – with us when we are born,
what about the monumental challenges and dangers women face in a world
that values physical attractiveness above intelligence and personality?
Worry not, says Putin. “We will help you smile more.”
Vladimir Putin visits a newly opened maternity center in Bryansk on March 8, 2017.
Alexei Druzhinin / Pool Photo via AP