Despise the frost and the snow, January is a month full of joyful evens in Russia. After New Year, Christmas and the Orthodox New Year (according to the Julian Calendar), there is still another day that many are awaiting for: January 25th, Татьянин День (Tatiana’s Day) or Students Day.
It might seem strange to associate a roman catholic saint and martyr from the 3rd century with a happy and noisy feast with drunk students strolling around the city. As А.П. Чехов (Chekhov) wrote in 1885 about Tatiana’s Day:
“В этом году выпили всё, кроме Москва-реки, и то благодаря тому, что замёрзла…” (This year everything was drunk, except the water from the Moscow river, and only because it was frozen.)
Actually, the reason is very simple. On January 25th (Gregorian calendar) 1755, императрица Елизавета (Empress Elizabeth of Russia) signed a decree for the establishment of the 1st Russian university, under the care of Иван Шувалов (Ivan Shuvalov). First minister of Education in Russia, Shuvalov was a very well educated man who wanted all Russians to have a better education. The decree was signed on the name day of his mother, Tatiana, to whom he said: “дарю тебе университет” (“I give you a university”) as a present.
So that day became the official University day, which was called in those days, День Московского университета (the Day of the Moscow University). At first, it was only celebrated in Moscow with a brief ceremony in the building of the University followed by noisy and well washed down parties all over the city.
Later on, in 1791, Храм мученицы Татианы при МГУ (the Church of Saint Tatiana) was built on the old campus. The Russian Orthodox Church declared Saint Tatiana saints of all students and Tatiana’s Day became celebrated as День российского студенчества (Russian students Day).
Today, nothing has changed. After months of hard learning, revising and exams, students take the most they can from that day of freedom. Night clubs and restaurants are organising special parties. Even the police on that day is present more to prevent than to repress. So if you want to know what a real student feast is, make sure to be in Russia on Tatiana’s Day.