A Festive Ceremony in Honor of Russian Guards Day
On 2 September 2004 a festive ceremony in honor of Russian Guards Day took place in the St George Hall of the Winter Palace. This day was established by Decree No. 2032 dated 22 December 2000 issued by the President of the Russian Federation and commemorates the first Russian guard regiments created by Peter I more than 300 years ago.
In 1700 the Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky Regiments were first called Life Guards. On 22 August 1700 (corresponding to 2 September 1700 in the modern calendar) the Russian Army began its campaign on Narva. The Narva Battle of 9 November 1700 went badly for the Russian forces. This was the first battle in which Peter’s former ‘display soldiers’ performed in their new status. The Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky Regiments fought bravely and provided cover for the retreat of the Russian Army, which demonstrated their right to bear the honorary title of guardsmen.
Under Emperor Peter the Great’s successors, military units from other branches of service including the infantry, cavalry and artillery joined the Guard regiments. During the course of the 18th and 19th centuries the Imperial Guard were the elite of the Russian armed forces. Representatives of the most illustrious noble families of Russia served in the Guard regiments and the best soldiers were recruited into these units. These select fighters often demonstrated their bravery and loyalty on the fields of battle. In 1918 the regiments of the Imperial Guard were disbanded, but the honorary title of guardsman remained in the Russian language as a symbol of military valor.
In December 2003 the State Hermitage opened a Museum of the Guards within the General Staff building. This is the only museum of its kind in Russia, and in the world at large the only similar museum is in London. The permanent exhibition at the Museum of the Guards serves as a reminder of the glorious military traditions of Russian armed forces, traditions which soldiers of the modern day Russian Army are called upon to continue and develop. Among the participants in the festive ceremony on 2 September were pupils and cadets of the military schools. While they stood in rank the banners and standards of the regiments of the Russian Imperial Guards, covered with the glory of past battles, were displayed before them and the Admiralty Orchestra under the direction of artist emeritus of Russia A. A. Karabanov performed Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. The ceremony was organized by the State Hermitage and the Command of the Leningrad Military District.