Central & Eastern Europe: International Women's Day

March 8 has been an official day off in Russia and Ukraine, and here are some bloggers’ reactions to the holiday – in Russia and Ukraine, as well as elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe.

Scott W. Clark of Foreign Notes, a Kyiv-based blog, is not happy about the universality of the day off:

[…] everyone, or most everyone, has it off including the elevator repairman for our building. Hiking up 13 floors with the littlest Clark in hand is not my idea of the perfect holiday.

Oleksandr, a Ukrainian living in Montreal and writing Messages From Canada, wonders why March 8 is considered an international holiday when it's more of a Soviet holiday and should be treated as such:

Like my sister's friend said: I am not Soviet Union woman (“sovetskaya zhenshyna”), so that I don't celebrate this holiday at all. Me too, I am not Soviet Union man, so that if I met any of my female friends this day in Ukraine, I would say just “have a nice day” ;)

Konstantin Dlutskiy of Russian Marketing Blog and Konstantin of Russian Blog both reproduce Soviet-time March 8 posters: “Down with kitchen slavery” from the former and “[Soviet-Chinese] friendship is unbreakable” from the latter.

Sergey Belyakov of the Novgorod-based RUBLog sends his warmest wishes to the women of the world and reminds the rest of the humankind that it's not too late to buy flowers online, thus revealing yet another aspect of March 8 – as any other holiday, it's very good for commerce:

For mens:

In Russia, it is usual to present flowers on 8th March. You still have time to make it, with Send Flowers or Flowers 2 Russia.

Norvezhskiy Lesnoy (LJ user nl) has created a generic March 8 greeting (RUS) for Moscow's Bolshoi Gorod bloglike website: every year, press services of “presidents, governors, heads of oil corporations, etc.” across Russia have to revise their last year's greetings – and often they repeat themselves or each other; by taking it a step further and combining quotes from various official addresses, NL helps those busy men save time and avoid embarrassment.

Olga Sagareva criticizes (RUS) a recent order issued by Chechnya's new prime minister Ramzan Kadyrov: from now on, women in Chechnya are required to wear headscarves in government institutions and on TV.

[…] no one has probably told Kadyrov that March 8 is the day of fighting for women's rights, and this is the reason it was so dear to the Soviet people, and not to them alone.

(A year ago, Kadyrov's March 8 present to the Chechen women was – very inappropriately – the dead body of his main opponent, Aslan Maskhadov.)

Jane Keeler, an American teaching English in Vladimir, notes this in her From Russia With Blog:

I find it fascinating to read about the history of IWD, and it's kind of disappointing to see how it has evolved. On one hand, I got chocolate, cards and potpourri from various people all because I am in possession of a vagina. Easiest chocolate I've ever received.

Becca at the Polish blog Boo mentions the holiday's popularity in Poland and its growing “recognition everywhere,” but isn't sure Iowa United Methodist Women's suggested activity for the day has much value:

Right, you'd like women ‘wherever’ they live, to go into churches and ring the bells ‘all day’.

Annabengan of annasblog marks how the meaning of March 8 seems to differ in her native Sweden and in Albania, where she now works:

In Sweden it's not really a “happy event” it's kind of a heavy day full of shame and guilt as we read and hear about inequality concerning salaries of men and women, the ratio women – men in Boards of private enterprises that still exist, gender based violence, women's rights etc etc. I understand zero Albanian so I don't know what's up in the Albanian news papers and media today – maybe it's the same…?

Finally, Pestiside.hu, a Hungarian blog, has forgotten about the holiday: “Honestly, Dear, the Dog Ate Our Flowers” is the title of the relevant post. Last year's entries are offered as compensation, though.


Konstantin Dlutskiy of Russian Marketing Blog cites some interesting holiday-related statistics:

1. Prices on flowers rose on average 170%.
2. L'Oreal Paris made 40% of its planned sales of perfume on one day only.
3. Tables at Moscow restaurants were all booked 2 weeks before the day.

Stephan Clark of Everybody I Love You reports on how he combined his Russian lesson with a little celebration with his teacher, and also notes that the mobile network in Kharkiv, Ukraine, was overloaded on March 8:

[…] My tutor had received roses and tulips before getting my flowers, and her daughter was all dressed up and entertaining guests when I came over for my thrice-weekly lesson. Others I know measure the day in text messages — and if one woman got sixteen, I'm sure every other woman in the country got four, or seven, or twelve or twenty-two. Just trying to send a text-message today was hard. […]

Lyndon of Scraps of Moscow recounts what he did on March 8 as a kid in the Soviet Union in the mid-80s and links to his last year's March 8 post, which dealt almost exclusively with the TV coverage of Aslan Maskhadov's death:

[…] I am sure that appetites at more than one 8th of March feast were spoiled by the extensive footage of Maskhadov's body (turns out that “destroyed” is a polite way of saying “killed” – his body was very much intact, although pretty beaten up), in a pool of blood, from every conceivable angle. […]

Katerina, a Russian co-blogger at The Accidental Russophile, writes about the reasons people still celebrate this Soviet holiday and describes what an ideal March 8 should be like and how it normally goes.

LJ user yellow-reporter posts an AFP picture of Moscow feminists protesting next to a huge panties-shaped poster with this message (RUS) on it:

“Flowers – today, shackles – everyday?”

One commenter calls this “fanatism,” the other describes the protesters as “losers” (RUS).

Rachel of Pustolovina: adventure in Serbian describes a very eventful day in Belgrade, filled with protest, activism as well as some “very stereotypically feminine” activities. She concludes:

I enjoyed all of those tasks & I suppose that's what International Women's Day, feminism, etc. is all about: doing tasks because you want to do them, not because they're expected of you.


Having forgotten to celebrate the International Women's Day, Gazing into the Abyss writes about how the holiday is perceived in the Czech Republic now:

[…] If I brought flowers home yesterday – well, I could; there is no such thing as too many flowers. But if I brought flowers with congratulations on International Women's Day, oh my! – it would mean that either I am completely crazy after all, or I make tasteless jokes. That's what remains of a once high-minded idea: a tasteless joke.

Most of us here in the West's East would like to forget about the past, just as I have forgotten about the Woman's Day. But the past won't forget about us.

1 comment

  • Here in Kosovo I was pleased to see that International Women’s Day is also celebrated. Ministries and companies organise flowers, a speech by the boss and a big free lunch for the women, followed by the rest of the day off.

    Actually I prefer the Kiev method, flowers chocolate and a poem, then work as usual.

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