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Russia Celebrates Women's Day - 2002-03-08


Men across Russia scrambled to buy presents for their sweethearts, wives and mothers Friday in honor of International Women's Day, celebrated March 8. The holiday, which was a Soviet mainstay, is still immensely popular in Russia although the focus has changed.

Viktor Garyelov knows what would happen if he came home on International Women's Day, without a present for his wife. Mr. Garyelov says if he forgot to buy a present for his wife and came home empty handed she would probably hit him.

Judging from the number of men buying flowers and presents in Moscow, few men are willing to risk such wrath.

In Russia, International Women's Day is a day to honor and celebrate women, similar to Valentine's Day and Mother's Day rolled into one.

Men usually do the bulk of the flower giving and present buying for the women in their lives. But it is also traditional for women to buy presents for their mothers, co-workers or friends.

The holiday dates back to the early years of the 1900s when women were pushing for more rights in the workplace and at home.

But many in Russia, including Muscovite Ludmilla Samoylava, say the focus of the holiday is moving away from women's liberation to simply celebrating women. Ms. Samoylava says there is a big difference between the way the holiday is celebrated today and years ago. She says this is because women have become stronger and more self-sufficient so there is less of a need to focus attention on women's issues.

But of all the women in Russia, perhaps those in the Ural city of Yekaterinburg have the biggest reason to celebrate. Police officers there have decided to give flowers and perfume instead of fines to women drivers who break minor traffic laws.

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